How One Young Man Decided His Past Mistakes Wouldn't Define Him
Date:  09-01-2014

Inspiring story illustrates how rehabilitation must be a crucial part of the juvenile justice system
By 19, Shaka Senghor had been shot three times and killed a man. After going through his darkest times in prison, leading to solitary confinement, Senghor had an awakening that led him to where he is today. In a March TEDTalk: Why Your Worst Deeds Don’t Define You , Senghor shared his powerful story of incarceration, rehabilitation and transformation. After receiving a meaningful letter from his son, Senghor started to truly examine his past and the decisions he had made. This began his transformation, and these four key things kept his recovery moving forward:

1. His mentors, who forced him to look at his life honestly and challenged his decision-making.

2. Literature: While in prison, Senghor was inspired by many black poets, authors and philosophers whose words helped him heal. Senghor references the autobiography of Malcolm X as significant in shattering the stereotypes he believed about himself.

3. Family: Senghor knew he couldn’t truly heal without his father by his side, and he thanks the mother of his children for teaching him how to love himself.

4. Writing opened Senghor’s mind to the idea of atonement and helped him start to forgive himself. It also ignited a spark to share his reflections to help other incarcerated men and women begin to heal.

Senghor believes that rehabilitation is the most important element missing from the juvenile justice system, as not everyone has the support system around them that he did. He claims that it is our responsibility...Read more