Success Stories
Paul Stone sitting in the driver seat of his truck

Paul

Paul Stone turned 49 years old two days into 2021. Just a few weeks later he began the first full-time job of his life. It had nothing to do with his skills or his desire to work. Rather, a fateful, youthful decision at age 15 sent Paul to prison with a life without parole sentence. He would spend the next 33 years growing, maturing, discovering the person he knew he could and should be.

While incarcerated in Angola, he attended classes on victim awareness, anger management, and worked with the maintenance team developing an array of technical skills that served him well during more than 15 years in the job. It quickly became not only his job but also one of his favorite hobbies. “It was a challenge,” he said, “and I love having a challenge and being in a position where I need to figure stuff out.”

There was a time when Paul thought he would grow old and die in prison. But a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding how juveniles were sentenced coupled with Louisiana’s 2017 justice reforms provided a ray of hope for Paul and others like him. In November 2020, with the support of Parole Project, he got his second chance when he was granted parole.

Paul successfully completed the first phase of our intensive reintegration residential program during which we helped him navigate the many obstacles faced by people who have been incarcerated for decades. He learned valuable skills that included financial and banking literacy, social norms, technological literacy, consumer skills, and workplace etiquette, among others.

Returning home, he soon found employment with a maintenance company, his learned skills and work ethic proving providential. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to operations manager, a reflection of his focus and determination. He manages a landscaping crew, maintenance projects, and new construction work. “I got a lot of these skills while I was in Angola,” he said. “I often felt like the lead with that group as well.”

Among the most meaningful things about coming back home for Paul is being with family. “I was looking forward to spending time with my family. All my nieces were babies when I met them, and now they are all grown up and attending college and stuff,” he said. “It’s amazing to be a part of their lives now.”

After starting his job and saving some money, Paul bought his first car. “I’m proud of getting a job first and foremost,” he said. “I bought myself a car in the first three months. I’ve been able to maintain my job and rise through the ranks. That’s something I’m really proud of because it’s my first ever job in society and my first car. I also was issued a company van to help with work, so I have that as well, which I keep at my house.”

Approaching a year since his release, Paul appreciates his second chance and the little things so many take for granted. He maintains that focused determination to reach his goals, mentioning some of what he believes to be his most significant milestones. “Saving money first of all. I have a bank account, and I’ve been helping my family out with what I can. I love my family, and I love to be able to help them. My outlook is positive, and I know I am on the right path for myself and the people around me.

“It isn’t hard, you just really have to want to do it. I’m putting my mind to work so I can have a strong foundation. I like working because it keeps me grounded. I’ve realized over the years there’s nothing in the streets for me. I like where I am, and I’m happy to have my family. My routine is working, my family, and my home.”

One day Paul says he may branch out to pursue career options but, for now, he is happy and proud of where is. In his free time Paul enjoys fishing. “My dad and I go out and fish a lot, which is nice. I like to fish. We go to the bayou, and to the lakefront and little areas, it’s nice to be with my dad again.”

Paul also looks forward to eventually getting his own place although he says his dad doesn’t want him to leave. He credits Parole Project with helping him get to the point he is today. “I have to thank Parole Project for everything they have done for me and continue to do for me. For believing in me and helping me learn about the basic of life. I appreciate the feeling of people believing in me.” While accomplishing much in a short time, Paul remains humble about his experiences since leaving prison. When asked what he would say to the people coming out of home in the future, his immediate reply was to “stay open-minded. Stay open-minded to all situations. You never know what that person may have gone through or what you may go through, so just stay open-minded. Stay humble and appreciate and thank God for the second chance and really use it to do good. There’s nothing more for me to do but good things, and that’s all I want to do. I’ve only experienced the bad, and I don’t want to ever experience that part of my life again.”

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