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Former Maximum Security Prisoner is Now a Mayor

Former Maximum Security Prisoner is Now a Mayor
Image: kolderal / Getty

Thirty-one-year-old Jermaine Wilson grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas selling drugs out of his childhood apartment. He started using drugs at age 11 and was in juvenile detention by 15. By 21, he was in the maximum-security wing at Lansing Correctional, a state prison in Kansas.

It was there that the convicted drug-dealer came to the most important realization of his life. Jermaine put it this way: "If I don't change, it's either going to be two things that are going to happen: I'm either going to spend the rest of my life in prison or dead in a casket.”

In a strange turn of events, Jermaine is now the mayor of Leavenworth. He credits the transformation to God, education, and volunteer work. After prison, he started serving his community and got his felony record expunged, paving the way for a political run.

Today, Jermaine couldn't be more opposite. The school district that once expelled him now welcomes him back with open arms. He also works for a non-profit that helps ex-cons find and keep good jobs. Of course, he has his duties as the mayor. It's all made possible, he said, by the gift of incarceration.

That's why I'm here, because if [I wouldn’t have gone to prison], I would have never had the time to think. I would have never had an opportunity to build a relationship with God. I don't suggest prison. But one thing I tell you, we all go through a time in our life when we hit rock bottom. When you're at rock bottom there's only one other place to go, and that's up.

Steve Hartman, “Man who was once in prison's maximum-security wing is now a mayor,” CBS News (1-25-19)

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