Chris Wilson was sentenced to life in prison for murder when he was 17. By the time of the crime, he had experienced severe trauma, including being pistol whipped by his mother’s boyfriend, seeing her raped, and seeing a brother and a cousin gunned down. In the summer of 1996, two men threatened Wilson, and he shot and killed one of them. He was arrested, then charged and sentenced as an adult.

Once he was in prison, Chris decided he could not die there. He also wanted a full life outside of prison. So Chris developed a “master plan” that included learning other languages, earning a college degree, getting out of prison, starting a business, and even purchasing a black Corvette convertible. After proving he has changed and has the potential to be an asset to society, Chris had the rare opportunity to be resentenced by a Maryland judge. He served 16 years in prison and was released in 2012.

On Friday, Chris shared his story during a keynote address at the Where Do We Go From Here? A Faith Call to End Mass Incarceration event hosted by the United Church of Christ in advance of last weekend’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Many of the CFSY’s faith-based official supporters participated on Friday and during the weekend.

Chris is a member of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN), a project of the CFSY comprised of and led by formerly incarcerated youth. He is a business owner in Baltimore and serves as community workforce director at the Greater Homewood Community Corporation, a nonprofit that works to strengthen communities in northern Baltimore. Chris also is one of six Ratcliffe entrepreneur fellows at the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business.