Shaka Senghor: How Do You Emerge in a Society That's So Unforgiving?

Season 7 Episode 707
CC | tv-14
Shaka Senghor's personal journey has been nothing short of incredible. A convicted murderer and onetime drug dealer, Shaka defied seemingly insurmountable odds to redeem himself. After his release from prison, he has become a leading voice for criminal justice reform, founding the Atonement Project through a partnership with the University of Michigan and receiving the Black Male Engagement Leadership Award. He has written a memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison. He also mentors children in his community, teaches classes at the University of Michigan and has earned a fellowship from the MIT Media Lab.

However, Oprah says, his transformation is an "anomaly" in a society that doesn't allow for second chances very often. Oprah and Shaka discuss the challenge of fixing a broken prison culture that doesn't focus on rehabilitation and how we can help people successfully reintegrate into society.

Pointing out the sheer magnitude of the problem, Shaka notes that 2 million people are incarcerated, a majority of which will be released into society one day. "We have a conscious choice as human beings: What kind of men and women do we want to come home?" he says in the clip above. "Do we want them to come out more predatory, more barbaric, more inhumane? Or do we want to come out and reintegrate into society as tax-paying citizens who have made a poor decision and who can now move on with their life? And, I know that people think I'm an anomaly. I don't personally think that because I see men and women who have transformed their lives. They just haven't figured out—how do they re-emerge in a society that's so unforgiving."