Jeff says being sent to prison saved his life.

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Jeff says prison may have actually saved his life. If he had stayed on the streets, he says he might be dead by now. "I pretty much got rescued from the streets," he says.

After prison, Jeff says success didn't come easy. He had to work to change his image before people could look beyond his troubled past. "I had to kind of re-image myself," he says. "When I went into corporate America, it was challenging for me. I couldn't understand why I couldn't get a job. I had to learn to smile. I had to learn to shake hands. You know, all these different things that make the felony become transparent."

As a convicted criminal, Jeff says people were intimidated by him. "I had the record," he says. "My rap sheet was longer than my résumé."

To get through the tough times, Jeff remembered the most important lessons he learned during his incarceration. "I am somebody," he says. "I'm proud to be an African-American, and I am smart. Those are the key things."

Oprah thinks Jeff's story can inspire young black men who are searching for positive role models in their lives. "I think you are a really remarkable success story," she tells Jeff.
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FROM: Why They Beat the Odds
Published on March 01, 2007

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