Sean Ahshee Taylor’s formative years in Denver were filled with challenges: His mom battled crack addiction, and his father, who was not a major presence in his life, was incarcerated in prison.
When he was about 14, Sean joined the Bloods street gang. To adolescent Sean, the gang offered the potential of financial stability. He saw some gang members driving flashy cars and wearing expensive sneakers. “I was attracted to people doing negative things in the neighborhood,” Sean recalled.
In 1989, when he was 17, Sean fired a gun into the home of a rival gang member. Sean did not intend to kill or even hurt the rival, he just wanted to scare him. Tragically, the lone bullet Sean fired struck another 17-year-old boy, who was not a gang rival. The victim died. Sean saw a local TV news report about the death, and, filled with remorse, turned himself in to police.
Prosecutors charged Sean as an adult with first-degree homicide and related offenses. In 1990, a jury convicted Sean of first-degree homicide and the judge sentenced him to life in prison, which meant he would not be eligible for a parole hearing until he had served 40 years. During his first year in prison, Sean was involved in a couple of gang-related skirmishes, “I was living the same say in prison,” Sean recalled. “I realized I had to leave that lifestyle alone completely.”
Sean began reading numerous books, and eventually taught fellow incarcerated people adult basic education. Sean, who speaks some Spanish, also taught ESL (English as a Second Language) courses.
In 2011, a juvenile-clemency board created by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) granted clemency to Sean and three other people who were minors at the time of their crimes. Sean was released at age 38.
Since he regained his freedom, Sean has dedicated his life to helping other people who have been incarcerated. Shortly after he gained his freedom, Sean was hired as a case worker by the Second Chance Center, in Aurora. The center aspires to reduce the recidivism rates of men and women who have been incarcerated by helping them transition into successful lives in society. Sean is a role model for the people he works with.
Since he started working at the Center, he has worked his way up and is now the organization’s deputy director. He is also a gang intervention specialist.
“The most rewarding part of the job is to walk someone through the necessary steps to cut prison out of their lives altogether,” Sean said. “To cut out substance abuse and criminal behavior.”