“I knew I had to take ownership of what I did and regardless of the circumstances, I was going to try and become somebody different.”
This is a story of mistakes made. Of penance served. And the hard wrought path to atonement, self-forgiveness, and ultimately redemption.
It begins with a young, standout volleyball player. A smart guy who later joins the Air Force, spending nearly two years at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA studying Korean.
His career looked bright. But it wasn’t long before Chris Schuhmacher started making some bad decisions. A laundry list of errant decisions, in fact, that deposited him into a dark, hard partying crowd in Hollywood. Decisions that led to dealing weed to support that lifestyle. And decisions that ultimately culminated in a suitcase of drugs under his dispatch being stolen from him.
In a drug and alcohol fueled rage, desperate and fearing the consequences should he be unable to retrieve the contraband, Chris took another manʼs life. And for that offense he was sentenced to sixteen to life.
Well aware that he might never see another day outside San Quentin, inmate number T31014 nonetheless committed to taking responsibility for his actions. Searching for spiritual purpose and meaning, he got sober — and stayed that way. He made amends for his crime, began running and earned a college degree. He even studied software engineering, developing a promising app called Fitness Monkey under the tutelage of The Last Mile, a non-profit program that trains incarcerated individuals for successful reentry,
All told, Chris transformed himself into the kind of person he always knew he could be.
Then came the impossible. In 2017, after serving 17 years, a parole board granted him his freedom.
Re-entry hasn’t be easy for Chris. But he has emerged from the experience a better man. Now a productive member of society reunited with his family and gainfully employed, he is intent on sharing his cautionary tale in service of others.
I had the privilege of hearing Chris speak at The Nantucket Project last year. In a time where prisons and prisoners are mostly forgotten, I was deeply moved by his story of change, rehabilitation and improvement from the lowest points. And I was compelled to use this platform to better understand both his humanity and the current state of our prison industrial complex.
There is no “un-doing” what Chris did. There can be no sufficient apology for taking a life. And yet there are lessons to be gleaned –both profound and instructive — from his deep dive into self-examination. The support he leveraged to reinvent himself wholesale. And the innovations afoot that can better rehabilitate the current and future incarcerated among us.
Indeed, this is a story of drugs, alcohol, addiction, betrayal, anger, and tragically, murder. It’s about what currently ails our prison industrial complex. And it’s about how society can do better.
But at its core, this conversation is about atonement. It’s about second chances. And it’s about empathy.
With that, I urge that you entertain Chris’ testimony with an open mind and even more open heart.
Peace + Plants,
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Note: One of the best ways to support the podcast is to support our sponsors. For a complete list of all RRP sponsors and their respective vanity url’s and discount codes, visit my Resources page and click “Sponsors”.
Background, Context & Reference:
- Connect with Chris: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn
- Addiction Recovery Fitness App: Fitness Monkey
- Non-Profit: The Last Mile | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- CNBC: A non-profit is helping ex-convicts land jobs as Silicon Valley programmers
- Forbes: An Inmate Explains What It’s Like To Be Selected For The Last Mile’s Code 7370 Program at San Quentin State Prison
- Inc.: 7 Keys to Becoming an Entrepreneur (From a Former San Quentin Inmate)
- Daily Mail: From prisoner to programmer: San Quentin’s rehab scheme where inmates who have never used the internet build apps and websites (and MC Hammer is a mentor)
- Tech Crunch: San Quentin Prison Demo Day Gives Entrepreneurs Behind Bars A Second Chance
- TED-Ed Blog: Why I’m Teaching Prisoners To Code by Chris Redlitz
- RAD Reads: Chris Schuhmacher (Ep. 46): Murder, 16-to-life, and a second chance
- San Quentin News: The passion of running stretches beyond the prison walls
- Prison Policy Initiative: Report: Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2018
- The Neighborhood Project: Chris Schuhmacher
- TV, Movies, Comics, Fan Site: Fandom
Notable People Discussed:
- Tom Scott: co-founder of The Nantucket Project, former CEO and founder of Nantucket Nectars. creator & producer of The Neistat Brothers with 3x podcast guest Casey Neistat and podcast guest
- Chris Redlitz: co-founder of The Last Mile, partner at Transmedia Capital
- Beverly Parenti: co-founder of The Last Mile, serial entrepreneur
- Jimmy Wales: Internet entrepreneur, co-founder of the online non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia and the for-profit web hosting company Wikia (now Fandom)
- Randy Stoklos: pro beach volleyball player; the first player to earn $1,000,000 playing competitive beach volleyball, won one U.S. championship and Five World championships with Sinjin Smith
- Sinjin Smith: pro beach volleyball player who won one U.S. championship and two World championships with Randy Stoklos
- MC Hammer: hip hop recording artist, dancer, record producer and entrepreneur. popular from the late 1980’s, until the early 90’s
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP #299: Shaka Senghor On Righting Wrongs & Why Your Worst Deeds Don’t Define You
- RRP #379: John McAvoy: From Armed Robbery To Professional Athlete — One Man Reformed Through The Power Of Sport
- RRP #248: From Crack Addict To Running The Sahara To Prison Hero — Charlie Engle’s Third Act
- RRP #294: John Joseph Returns: The Transformative Power of PMA
- RRP #404: Music Mogul Jason Flom On Reforming Criminal Justice & Resurrecting Rock ‘N Roll
- RRP #360: Tom Scott On Curiosity, The Power Of Story & The Lost Art Of Conversation
Thanks to Moby for this week’s interstitial track: “xxxx“, Jason Camiolo for audio engineering, production and show notes. Video, editing by Blake Curtis and Margo Lubin. Graphics by Jessica Miranda.Theme music by Ana Leimma.
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