The young David Shirley - before his transformation - is a person you love to hate. You are not cheering for him; you are actually glad he ends up behind bars and hopes he learns his lesson. He found the wrong side of the law at a very young age. For 10 years in prison he continued with his negative mindset and behaviors despite all the punishments the prison threw at him until ultimately relocating him to a different prison where the first glimmer of hope appeared. He now works as the Post-Release Program Manager for Defy Ventures in Washington.
Education taught David how to hone skills he didn't realize he had. It also taught him to take the negative impulsiveness that had plagued him his entire life and reframe it as a tool that he can use, not one that controls him. Although his transformation was a long time coming, when it occurred, it was genuine. Like he said, "To change you have to want it." Once his mindset changed, there was no looking back except to use his past choices to motivate him to keep progressing forward.
David's encouragement to volunteer with an organization that serves the incarcerated population and learn for yourself how to make a difference in the justice system is a wise one. Fear is what separates us. Once you meet the inmates, then you can make a judgement, but not until then. Everybody is redeemable. Everybody deserves a second chance.
Psychiatrist and author, Dr. James Gordon, expresses the same sentiment that David discovered in prison, “It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t… It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.” This might just be what being a resilient human being hinges on. May we all dig deep and find the courage to change ourselves and our world for the better, just as David has.