The Inspiration Behind Walt Jones’ Prison Adjustment

By · Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Kara wrote a comment in response to an article I wrote about my friend Walt Jones. She was inspired by the positive choices Walt had made as a long-term prisoner and hoped that her brother, who also was serving a lengthy prison

Walt Jones with his family at Taft Camp

Walt Jones with his family at Taft Camp

term, could follow Walt’s example. Truthfully, the story I wrote about Walt did not do justice to the inspiring transformation he has had on others. One of the truly admirable qualities about Walt is that he first attributes his change to the inspiration he received from others, and to the commitment he made to his wife, Tomesha. Another prisoner, Tommy X, had been a mentor to Walt. Also, the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan imbued Walt with a sense of duty and responsibility to make positive contributions to the broader community.

When I wrote Walt’s story, I emphasized his background as a young gangbanger for a reason. I wanted others who come from challenging environments to grasp that, regardless of their socio-economic struggles, they could set themselves on a course of leadership. Walt succeeded while serving time in some of America’s roughest prisons. As he liked to say when delivering his powerful testimony, he “turned jail into Yale, prison into Princeton.”

 Upon developing his reading and writing skills, Walt advanced to earn a marketable skill. He undertook an independent study course to become certified as a personal physical fitness trainer. Walt not only studied to learn about nutrition, anatomy, and the science of effective training techniques, he lived what he learned. Walt transformed his physique by shedding 100 pounds. He was committed to living a well-balanced life, with body, spirit, and mind working in harmony.

Those like Kara’s brother, who served time at the federal prison in Milan, needed a role model. Walt provided an excellent example of how a disciplined adjustment could lead to a better life. For Walt, the real role model was his childhood sweetheart, the mother of his children, his wife Tomesha.

Walt deeply regretted that as a younger man, the choices he made brought Tomesha into the vice grips of the criminal justice system. While she served her time, however, Tomesha lived as an inspiration for Walt. Through correspondence, she told Walt that he had to graduate from living as a thug; he had to develop the skills and values that would allow him to thrive as a man, as a proud provider for his family and contributor to his community.

Tomesha finished serving 10 years in prison, and she reached unprecedented levels of success. The adjustment she made while inside prepared her to find excellent employment upon release. During the four years since her release, Tomesha negotiated a mortgage that enabled her to purchase a home. She purchased a car. She supported Walt in every way while balancing the demands of a full-time career and rearing their two teenage children.

Walt felt extraordinarily proud of his wife and children. He was quick to credit what both he and Tomesha learned through their spiritual devotion to God and the teachings of The Nation of Islam. Walt served a higher purpose, and because of that, he knew that he would live the rest of his life as an honorable citizen. He welcomed every opportunity to help others reach their highest potential, just as Tommy X, Tomesha, and others had helped I’m. Perhaps Kara’s brother would find that same inspiration, and use it to emerge stronger from prison, just as Walt and Tomesha did.

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