SaulPaul: From Incarceration to Education

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My name is SaulPaul. I’m an ex-offender. As an ex-offender, saying you’ve paid your debt to society is like saying you’ve paid your taxes. Your debt might be paid up for the moment, but if you keep living, more debt will be due. I wish I could paint a prettier picture, but I have the gift and curse of being candid. I am an ex-offender who was released from prison more than 13 years ago yet my stint in prison still affects my life today.

My previous prison sentence has dictated where I can live and where I can work since my release. Recently, I had to again check that dreaded box that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” I’ve lived in three different states since my release, but that box follows me like that cloud of dirt follows Pigpen in Peanuts.

That box is like my arch nemesis. It has never meant me well. That box is a box. And that box wants to box me in. Deeper still, that box feels like an anchor. It wants to hold me back. It wants to hold me down.

Even crazier are the two blank lines that usually accompany “the box.” They most often are preceded by text that says something like, “Please feel free to explain your situation or circumstances surrounding your conviction.” That’s thoughtful. But the reality is, I can’t put the 20 years that lead up to my arrest and conviction into two lines. Two lines are not enough. But the two years I spent in prison were.

The two years I resided in the state penitentiary because I was convicted of four felonies were more than enough. Enough for me to never go back. Enough for me to learn that the system is broken and flawed and that the best thing for me to do is to stay away from it.

And stay away from it is what I did. After I was released from prison on parole, I focused my attention and energy on being successful. Success is different for everyone, but my definition of success included me graduating from college. Not just any college, but a top college. The University of Texas at Austin. And through much hard work and due diligence, I graduated from that university…with honors.

Since college graduation I have become a productive citizen who contributes to society. Initially I was gainfully employed working at a TV station, but eight years ago, I resigned and became a business owner. I sell hope.

I’ve taken my unique story and crafted it as a universal message of inspiration. I took my lemons and made lemonade. I’ve impacted hundreds of thousands of people through my music, movie, book, magazine and motivational speeches.

I now travel across the country as a Musician with a Message. ( Part Musician/Part Motivational Speaker. To quote my song On The Front Page, “Now I make a living helping everybody else.” ( tell my story because I believe in the power of the truth. The truth set me free. Yes, I made mistakes. But yes, that is my past. I must live in this moment and dictate my future with the choices I make now.

The most beautiful part of the picture I paint is this…Anyone can succeed if that is what they desire to do. No one said it would be easy though. The fact of the matter is that it will be hard work. But hey … That’s life. You only get one. You might as well make the most of it.

3 thoughts on “SaulPaul: From Incarceration to Education

  1. Great article! In my prior life….before the bench and bar…..I was a parole officer for 10 years in Atlanta. Most frustrating experience was assisting my parolees in getting a job-that box indeed “boxed” them in. Thank you for your story of perseverence. I intend to share it with my kids in court.Hopefully, they will learn from you and never have to experience the “box.”

  2. The trail that follows ex-offenders is an issue that you rarely hear about, yet it affects most of the population in one way or another. It baffles me that as a society, we tack on so many consequences to being an ex-offender that it makes it nearly impossible for someone with a criminal history to live a normal life. We make it more likely that an ex-offender will return to crime due to limiting their options with regard to finding a job or accessing other avenues to economic stability, obtaining decent housing, or receiving public benefits. When will we see that our current system makes absolutely no sense? The way that we handle ex-offenders is counterproductive in the fullest sense of the word.

    • Veronica…I agree. I believe you are exactly right.
      It’s most simply stated like you put it…The way that we handle ex-offenders is counterproductive in the fullest sense of the word.

      The process needs to be totally rethought.

      S/O to be organizations like the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange that are facilitating and playing a part in creating a significant change.