Success Stories
Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson has an inspirational story about what he has done with his life both during prison and after his release. In 1970, Jack Johnson was arrested, along with two others, and charged with the murder of a Baltimore City policeman, and the attempted murder of another officer. He was convicted and sentenced to life plus 15 years, which usually means that you will never be part of society again.

In prison, Jack quickly realized that a large number of young men were there simply because "anti-social activities" were all they knew. These men were in prison because they did not know any better. Many had no parental involvement, family, nor mentors. Therefore, Jack began to work with a some of them in order to maximize the number of dimunition credits they could earn towards shortening their sentences, to make them aware of the forces that led them to into prison in the first place and that kept them in prison, and to teach them how to appeal their convictions through the legal system.

Jack Johnson realized that not only was he effective at this, but it gave him a great sense of purpose. He felt good that he was able to use his greatest talents and passion to assist those less fortunate than Jack himself. That may sound strange, seeing as though Jack was serving a sentence which had no release date, but he knew why he was in prison. There was a reason greater than his own desires: to serve others. That was his PURPOSE in life.

Once Jack was released decades later, full of energy, and resolved to become even more involved in the fight for social justice, he became aware that ex-offenders and defendents were also in need of assistance. Since his release in 2010, Jack has done the following: testified at an Illinois legislative hearing on felon employment challenges; working with the Institute for People with Criminal records to impress upon probation departments the value of voter registration and civic engagement for probationers as an important reentry tool; has become a Deputy Registrar and actively encourage ex-offenders to become registered voters and to "exercise that right"; and he works with Trinity United Church of Christ's Prison Ministry to provide services for ex-offenders. Jack does this work with much enthusiasm and passion.

At every opportunity, he uses his personal experiences as an example that the consequences of criminal behavior are just not worth spending a lifetime behind bars. Doing the "right thing" is the only way. And, finally, he wants current prisoners, and ex-offenders to know, thru his example, that there is indeed LIFE AFTER PRISON.


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