In the Prison Professors course, “Preparing for Success after Prison,” I highlight the accomplishments of my former partner, Shon Hopwood. Today, I am saddened to learn of an article that reported Shon’s arrest.
I have not spoken with Shon in longer than one year. I do not know any factual details of the matter. Although we do not know the truth, the appalling allegations on violence against women harm everyone’s interest of helping more people emerge from prison as good neighbors. The story saddens me; if the allegations are true, his family is in our prayers for healing. We must all wait for the truth to emerge. I reached out to Shon, but I have not heard back as of this writing.
I profile Shon in many courses as an example of excellence and what is possible for all justice-impacted people.
Early in his career, Shon worked with me to develop Prison Professors. After he became a professor at Georgetown Law and the White House recruited him to work toward the passage of the First Step Act, we parted ways. I am incredibly proud of the role he played in passing the First Step Act, and the way it opened doors for us to become a Productive Activity with the Bureau of Prisons. That law will benefit thousands of people and improve the outcomes of America’s justice system.
While Shon’s personal fall is difficult to read, the mission of Prison Professors remains the same. We strive to help justice-impacted people learn how to help themselves.
We must continue the effort and stay true to our commitment of helping people work to reach their best possible outcomes.
- What takeaways can we learn from news about one person who succeeded after prison, but then fell?
- How does our course Preparing for Success after Prison relate to this news?
- In what ways can we learn lessons from such challenges?
Regardless of the challenges he now faces, Shon’s story offers both hope and a warning for people in prison. Despite serving a sentence for armed bank robbery, he learned new skills in prison. He trained himself to become an expert in post-conviction litigation. He played an essential role in winning two cases in the US Supreme Court. He became a lawyer, a law professor, and an influential leader in public policy. Those accomplishments are indisputable, and they offer hope. But success in one area does not mean we are immune from falling. Bad decisions can bring any of us down, at any time.
Every day brings a new opportunity to choose our path and recommit to our goals and values. When we fail to live intentionally, deliberately, we become more susceptible to a fall.
While incarcerated, I remember reading an article about redemption from a professor at the University of Chicago. I don’t recall the exact quote, but I think it said:
The good man is the one who, regardless of what bad he has done in the past, strives to work toward the good of society.
The evil man is the one who, regardless of what good he has done in the past, hurts others.
I needed those inspiring messages to empower me through 26 years in prison. I needed to believe that although I made terrible decisions that led to my confinement, I could work toward becoming better.
In our course, Preparing for Success after Prison, we teach the importance of lifestyle changes. We should always work toward personal development, and always hold ourselves to a high standard of good conduct that aligns with how we define success—which we cover in the first module or our course.
We all must work toward becoming better, and we must renew our commitment every day.
I am grateful to staff members in the Bureau of Prisons for opening these opportunities to share stories on the importance of daily reflection and daily commitment to excellence. If you have not enrolled in Preparing for Success after Prison and would like to participate, please check with your Reentry Affairs Coordinator or Supervisor of Education. If you’d like to work through the program independently, contact us at [email protected].
Thanks to sponsors of our nonprofit, we can offer scholarship books with the hopes of helping you prepare to help yourself. Send our team an email if you’d like to participate in memorializing your commitment to prepare for success.
I will never ask anyone to do anything I didn’t do in prison and that I’m not still doing today. Stay vigilant with the lessons we offer in our program, Preparing for Success after Prison.
Founder, Prison Professors
PS. I will send more messages that staff members may share, just to show that I will not ask anyone to do anything that I’m not doing—always preparing for success!