...and justice for all
Writing My Wrongs
Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison is the true story of a man who went from being a convicted murderer, serving 19 years in prison, to becoming a leading voice for criminal justice reform and an inspiration to thousands. Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle-class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the peak of the 1980s crack epidemic. Under difficult circumstances at home, Shaka ran away at age 14, turned to drug dealing, and ended up in prison for murder at age 19. Writing My Wrongs (is his story of what came next. After pleading guilty to second-degree murder, Shaka was sentenced to 40 years in prison, entering the system at age 19, bitter, angry, and hurt. He blamed everybody, from his parents to the system, and he channeled that anger into violence. He ran a black market store, he loan sharked, and, halfway through his sentence, he was sent to solitary confinement for 4½ years for assaulting an officer to the point of near-death. A turning point in prison for Shaka occurred when his 10-year-old son wrote a letter to him recognizing the crucial reality for what he was in prison for—murder. With the cold hard truth hitting Shaka for the first time, his toughness and prison shrewdness wore off, as right there in that moment he realized he failed his son and the other black males in his neighborhood. Clinging on to hope from the letter his son wrote to him years earlier, Shaka continued to pour his time into literature, reading about Malcolm X and Nat Turner, Socrates and Donald Goines novels. He also discovered religion, meditation, and self-examination tools that he used to help him begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Shaka was more determined than ever to get a parole hearing. In 2008, he was granted a hearing but quickly denied, and then again in 2009, before he was able to enroll into the Assaultive Offender Program (AOP), a ten-month-long group therapy class required by all inmates with an assaultive case. Shaka eventually completed the AOP class and was up for parole yet a third time. “If I am released from prison, I plan to work and volunteer at local high schools and community centers,” he announced to a parole board member. He continued, “My ultimate goal is to pursue a career in writing.” On June 22, 2010, one day after his 38th birthday, Shaka was released from prison and was finally a free man. He stood by his words he shared with the parole board member, his family, and friends and became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. His work in the community and the courage to share his story led him to fellowships at the MIT Media Lab and the Kellogg Foundation and invitations to speak at events like TED and the Aspen Ideas Festival.
About the Author
Shaka Senghor is a writer, mentor, and motivational speaker whose story of redemption has inspired thousands. He is the author of six books, a former Director's Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, a Community Leadership Fellow with the Kellogg Foundation, and the founder of The Atonement Project, which helps victims and violent offenders heal through the power of the arts. He currently serves as the co-founder of #BeyondPrisons, a #cut50 initiative to share the devastating and far-reaching human impacts of the incarceration industry. In addition to serving as a lecturer at the University of Michigan, Shaka speaks regularly at conferences, high schools, prisons, churches, and universities around the country.