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I feel my criminal record will limit my success in life. Has anyone else turned their life around after prison?

Damian Calvert:   From Inmate to Community Leader

When a person is convicted of a crime, he may spend days, months or years in prison, but the criminal record will affect him for much longer.   Formerly incarcerated individuals struggle to find jobs, housing, health care and other necessities. It's much harder to avoid re-offending when these needs are not met. Despite the hurdles, success is possible. Damian Calvert is an inspiring example.

Damian Calvert spent 18 years in prison. As many young adults were graduating from high school, going to college or starting jobs - Calvert was facing a long road through the correction system to achieve a life free from crime. According to Calvert, "my journey of incarceration wasn't just a physical journey it was an interior journey"¦. I had a lot of self-introspection, facing my own demons and dealing with my own issues - emotionally, spiritually and mentally."

Despite the challenges Calvert faced during and after prison, he returned home and is creating positive change in his community. Much of Calvert's success today is based on the groundwork he laid while still incarcerated.   Calvert founded the NAACP chapter at Grafton Correctional Institution (GCI) in 2005. As part of his work with the NAACP, Calvert conducted outreach to many people outside the prison walls. Given that he could not participate in typical networking, he invited key stakeholders into the prison. Many of those people are now Calvert's friends and coworkers in the community.

Within two days of leaving GCI, Calvert found a job. A short time later he enrolled at Cleveland State University to pursue a Masters in Non-Profit Management. Just over two years after Calvert's release, he has his own apartment and car, and he is the Lead Organizer for Stand Up Ohio (Cleveland Region). Calvert proudly speaks about his life story: "If I cannot accept and be comfortable with myself, how can I expect others to treat me with the respect and dignity I deserve?"

This article was written by Erika Anthony of Oriana House, Inc.  and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

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