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A breath of fresh air on the news

Clark Porter

Photo: NPR via Washington University in St. Louis

I heard a story on NPR last month about an ex-felon named Clark Porter that caught my attention. When Porter was 17, he was charged and convicted as an adult for robbing a post office at gunpoint in St. Louis. He was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison.

The story grabbed my attention because Porter is now a probation counselor for the U.S. Probation Office in St. Louis. The thought that an ex-convict could get a federal government job was intriguing and I wanted to know more — so I Googled him.

Initially, I thought that it was great to hear about someone giving an ex-felon a chance. Recidivism is a major issue in the criminal system and I thought Porter’s story was a breath of fresh air. But as I learned more about Porter, I realized that there was more to his story. Porter was not simply given a chance; he had worked hard to overcome his negative past and had proven to others that he was qualified for his job with the probation office.

Porter was not the model inmate at first, as his behavior put him in a couple of super-maximum facilities. At some point after receiving his GED while in prison, he started taking college classes. In 2001, Porter was released on parole after serving 15 years. He attended community college and then received a scholarship to Washington University of St. Louis where he earned his degree in psychology. He then earned his master’s degree in social work at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Porter now works with groups of ex-offenders in a strenuous seven-month program that he helped develop. The participants of the program have to do things like community service, participate in therapy and look for employment.

Porter’s story is inspiring. He is one of many ex-felons that are trying to make a difference in the way ex-convicts transition back into society. The news is saturated so many negative stories that it’s nice listen to segment with a positive ending.