From Prison to Politics: Prophet Walker’s Journey

LOS ANGELES — The walls of Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, Calif., were hardly unfamiliar to Prophet Walker. As a teenager, Walker spent nearly half of his six-year prison sentence at Ironwood after he was convicted of assault causing great bodily injury and robbery at the age of 16.

This June, Walker, now 26, returned to Ironwood. However, this time it was not as a prisoner, but as a candidate for state office and a role model to the young men who stand where Walker stood just several years ago.

Up From the Depths: Juvenile Offenders Who Turned Their Lives Around

The hardliner prosecutor teaching a law course in a women’s maximum-security prison in Tennessee got to know inmates as real people rather than just paperwork. It changed his life so much he quit his job as a prosecutor, saying he could no longer be complicit in a system that warehoused for decades people who committed crimes as teenagers. The woman who managed an art gallery in a small Pennsylvania town always considered herself a big believer in law and order — and couldn’t imagine befriending a man serving life without parole on a first-degree murder conviction. Then somebody brought some of the inmate’s artwork to her gallery, and she contacted him. Today, she calls him a son, and he calls her “Mom.”
The former Chicago gang member convicted of first-degree murder for his involvement in a fatal stabbing and beating that took place when he was 13 now has a master’s degree, has counseled countless troubled kids and is a youth justice advocate fighting extreme sentencing of juveniles.