Welcome to Season 3 - Life After Prison
Welcome to Season 3 of Gramercy. This season you will get the privilege of meeting the formerly incarcerated and those who mentor, employ, and restore hope into their lives. I am partnering with Defy Ventures to bring you this dynamic series that will teach us what the journey looks like for Life After Prison.
I'm so thankful you're joining me for another season of listening to and learning from those who have been pushed to the fringes of society. This entire season was borne out of a book I read about one man's story. The book is titled, "The Sparrow In The Razor Wire" by Quan Huynh. As soon as I finished reading it, I knew I had to meet this incredible man. I also knew I wanted to learn more about what it was like on the inside and listen to the stories of all the men and women who have endured this behemoth called our "justice system."
I had never before considered the formerly incarcerated as a marginalized group. But the more I read Quan's book, I began to see it clearly. This is a group of people I need to meet and learn from. I wanted to know what traumas people endured inside and outside the system. I wanted to learn what influenced people to think the way they did. I wanted to understand what makes people resilient, what causes transformation, and how they find hope again.
Because of Quan's story, I learned about an organization called Defy Ventures and became enamored with their mission and purpose. On the homepage of their website it states: Defy’s entrepreneurial programs enable one of America’s largest forgotten communities to defy the odds. We equip them with new skills, new connections, and a new belief to match their new purpose, and succeed in their new life of economic independence." They actually believe and live out what Bryan Stevenson states so eloquently in his book, Just Mercy: "Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done."
Please keep that in mind as you listen to these incredible, heart-breaking, encouraging stories of people who have been to the bottom and yet have risen again as transformed humans ready to offer society their best. Again, Mr. Stevenson speaks so poignantly to this topic (so be prepared for a lot of quotes by him) when he says, " We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent."
This season has touched the depths of my heart. Each person I met shaped me in new ways. This season you will hear from Defy Ventures employees, some of whom have also experienced incarceration. You will also hear stories of those who were factually innocent, yet still served time in prison. And you will hear the stories of those who knowingly committed crimes, did their time, and are now free from the shackles of their punishment and trying to rebuild their lives. Defy Ventures believes in the formerly incarcerated and helps provide the tools and hope for them to thrive outside the prison walls.
Life After Prison taught me things I didn't know I needed to learn. It answered questions I didn't know I needed to ask. I hope it's effect on you is just as profound. After all, we're all stuck in prisons of our own making, aren't we? Reaching out and helping each other and having someone believe in our value is often the difference between staying stuck within our confines or setting us free to love, serve, and encourage others.
These episodes will be longer this season. Listening to people share their deepest vulnerabilities requires time and earning their trust. Afterall, these are more conversations than interviews and they take on that tone. True friends don't want to rush each other through a story in order to get to their own agenda. To genuinely see and hear others you must dedicate your time to listening. My ultimate goal during this season was that each person know that they are valued, seen, and heard by me, so I didn't rush through the stories. I let them work through the memories, traumas, and events that led up to the incident that led to incarceration. But I was equally curious as to how they processed their time in prison and when and how transformation occured. Some guests were completely forthcoming in sharing the details of their crimes, others were more vague about events and timeframes. The emphasis of this podcast was not the crime, but how the person transformed and what life looked like after being released from prison. And their stories wouldn't be complete without learning how they put into practice all they learned and how they were able to restore their hope, their relationships, and their livelihood.
To be sure, not everyone who enters prison leaves so transformed. These are the few that chose to do the hard internal work of dealing with their own demons and took complete responsibility for their choices and actions. Although you will hear many opinions about the state of our prison system and all its faults and inadequacies, this is not a podcast about prison reform. That's a political conversation for another day. Defy Ventures goes beyond the political constraints. They are not waiting for prison reform, they are showing up now and teaching strategies now and giving tools to those who are currently incarcerated so they can begin to believe in themselves again and find freedom within before ever finding it outside of the walls of prison.
And if you think you have nothing in common with the formerly incarcerated, you just might be mistaken. I was humbled to my core while preparing this season. Each guest brought me to my knees with their humility, ability to self-reflect, and authenticity. I simply request that you suspend judgement and the moral high ground while listening to each of these precious souls. Each of our lives are shaped by our circumstances, choices, Providence, and luck. Life is complicated. Some of us were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Others of us, not so much. The first step in learning is listening with an open mind and open heart. I think all of us can relate to and benefit from the Greek philosopher, Plutarch's words, "To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future." May we all grow in wisdom this season, just as each of my guests have.
FB - DefyVentures
IG - @defy_ventures
FB - DefyVentures
IG - @defy_ventures