Juvenile Prison to Transformation
Jimmy Wu grew up in prison. When he was 16 he stole a car. Prosecutors chose to charge Jimmy as an adult—a “direct file” —exposing him to many years in prison. While locked inside of a juvenile prison, a mentor inspired Jimmy. He developed a love of learning, writing, expressing ideas in ways that would show he was more than the criminal charges for which he served time. That mentoring transformed Jimmy’s life.
On Jimmy’s 18th birthday, authorities transferred him from the juvenile system to a high-security state prison. Being slight of build and young, Jimmy felt vulnerable. In accordance with prison customs, Jimmy segregated himself by race. Although he lived in accordance with prison customs, he also worked to educate himself, developing his craft as a communicator.
After longer than 12 years, authorities released Jimmy. He began working a series of dead-end jobs. Frustrated because he felt as if he was wasting his life, Jimmy quit. He began speaking, writing, sharing his story wherever he could. By getting in front of audiences, Jimmy contributed to the dialogue of the need to reform America’s prison system. By delivering a powerful speech at a major university, Jimmy received an extraordinary offer. Julio Marcial, a funding director from The California Wellness foundation, and Scott Budnick, of the Anti Recidivism Coalition, recognized that Jimmy’s powerful testimony could contribute to efforts they were making to improve outcomes of California’s criminal justice system. With their support, Jimmy received an offer to begin working as a case manager for Inside-Out writers.
Jimmy lives as the change that he wants to see in the world. He tells his inspiring story on the Earning Freedom podcast today, showing that anyone can move beyond past bad decisions or current circumstances. He didn’t luck into transformation. Instead, he worked hard, investing the time and energy to develop new skill sets. By plying his craft as a gifted communicator, Jimmy opened new opportunities. Now, through his inspiring work at Inside-Out Writers, Jimmy inspires other young people to transform their lives so that they, too, can lead lives of meaning and relevance.
Email: Jimmy @insideoutwriters.org
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