by Vivian Glang and Samantha Cortez
Everyone deserves a second chance.
And ex-criminals like Frank William Abagnale — the man who inspired "Catch Me If You Can" — and rap mogul Jay-Z prove that anyone can turn their lives around if given the chance.
We've compiled a list of 13 people — including a former mafia member and previously a target on FBI's Most Wanted list — with inspiring stories.
Former hacker Kevin Mitnick was on the FBI's Most Wanted list before launching his own security firm.
When Mitnick was 16, he hacked the computer system Digital Equipment Corporation and stole their software, reports Gerry Smith at The Huffington Post.
He was a fugitive for nearly three years before being arrested in 1995 and released in 2002. His new company, Mitnick Security, helps other companies discover security lapses in their systems.
Georgia Durante was a getaway driver for the Mafia before starting a stunt-driving company. The Internet Movie Database2 of 13
Georgia Durante was a getaway driver for the mafia before starting a stunt-driving company.
At one time she was known as the Kodak Summer Girl, but eventually the former model married into the mafia and became a getaway driver.
Since then, she's turned her life around by starting her own stunt driving company, Performance Two, that's created scenes for more than 100 movies. She's also published an autobiography, "The Company She Keeps."
Frank William Abagnale was a world-famous con man by age 21. Now he runs a fraud consulting company.
Between the ages of 16 and 21, Abagnale wrote $2.5 million in fraudulent checks and successfully posed as an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer and college professor. He was later apprehended by the French police and served five years in prison.
Abagnale was released early under the condition that he'd work with the U.S. government.
According to his firm's Web site, he works with consulting financial institutions, corporations and law enforcement agencies on fraud and security. To date, he has serviced more than 14,000 companies.
His story was made into the film "Catch Me If You Can," which was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
Rap mogul and entrepreneur Jay-Z was once a crack dealer in the Brooklyn projects.
Today, Jay-Z is a businessman who owns part of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, but when he was known as Shawn Carter, he was a drug dealer in Brooklyn’s Marcy projects.
Brad Hamilton in The New York Post writes:
"[Jay-Z's] done so well, many have forgotten he started as a street hustler from the grim Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant who sold crack by the kilo, was nearly murdered by a rival and narrowly escaped jail after cops pulled him over when his car was loaded with cocaine."
Junior Johnson went to jail for smuggling alcohol before becoming a NASCAR driver.
In the 1940s and '50s, Johnson learned how to drive fast by transporting illegal alcohol in North Carolina.
For his post-Prohibition crimes, he spent less than a year in jail, but later decided to use his motor skills for NASCAR.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Johnson competed in 313 races, won 50 of them and finished in the top 10 in the rest.
There is a stretch of highway in his hometown named after him.
While serving a prison sentence, Malcolm X became the most significant black leaders in the 20th century.
After losing his father at an early age, Malcolm X — then known as Malcolm Little — and his five siblings were placed in various foster care when their mother was declared insane and institutionalized.
Malcolm became discouraged at a young age and dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He then went on to spend his teenage years and early 20s "hustling in Boston and Harlem" and "also committing acts of petty larceny," writes Walter Bell in TruTV.
While serving his prison sentence, Malcolm changed his views, converted to Islam and "began to actively preach to the frustrated African-American population about what Islam had to offer."
Former Nixon aide Charles Colson spent a year in federal prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal and then started Prison Fellowship.
After pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and serving time in prison, Colson started Prison Fellowship, currently the world's largest prison outreach organization. According to its site, the fellowship was founded because Colson "could not forget those he had left behind prison walls."
Colson passed away on March 31, 2012.
Kweisi Mfume had several stints in jail before becoming a congressman and serving as president of the NAACP.
When Mfume was 16, his mother died from cancer and that made things spin "out of control."
“Not only did I run with all the worst people, I became the leader,” Mfume told U.S. News and World Report.”I was locked up a couple of times on suspicion of theft because I happened to be black and happened to be young.”
He dropped out of high school and fathered five children while he was still a teenager himself.
At some point, he decided to change his life around and enrolled in college. Mfume would go on to get his graduate degree from John Hopkins University, be elected to the Baltimore City Council, Congress, and become president of the NAACP.
Larry Jay Levine was sentenced to 10 years in prison and later used his experience to start his company, Wall Street Prison Consultants.
According to Wall Street Prison Consultants, their founder served some time behind bars for conspiracy charges related to narcotics, securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and possession of automatic weapons.
When Levine was released, he used his experience and knowledge to become a federal prison consultant, providing "prison survival education courses" and legal services to lawyers and offenders.
Judge Greg Mathis was in a gang and served time before launching his own TV show.
When Mathis was a teenager in Detroit, he joined a gang and went to jail for some time. Then at the age of 17, his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and Mathis turned his life around.
Sima Ballinger at the Examiner reports that Mathis got his G.E.D., attended Eastern Michigan University and then went to law school.
His television legal reality show has been on the air since 1999.
Actor Danny Trejo spent 12 years robbing stores, but now he only plays the bad guy in movies.
Trejo has been in nearly 200 films playing "tough guy" characters, but earlier in his life, he spent some time behind bars for drugs and robbery.
According to Nate Jones at Time Magazine, Hollywood came calling when a director asked if Trejo could play a convict, which he replied, "I'll give it a shot."
"I've been in every penitentiary in the state of California. And so when they say, 'Can you do a robbery?' I go, 'Hell, done a few of those,'" he said.
Stephen Richards spent nine years in prison for selling marijuana before becoming a professor of criminal justice.
During his nine-year stint in prison, Richards had a tough wake-up call after witnessing suicides, beatings and shootings.
According to Warren St. John at the New York Times, Richards received his bachelor's degree while incarcerated and got his graduate degree from University of Wisconsin and Ph.D. from Iowa State University.
He went on to become a professor of criminal justice at University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh and published several books on criminology.
"There's been some very successful businessmen who had a previous life as a criminal behind bars, and you know, our hats are off to those individuals who managed to, you know, engage in the American dream through that process," Richards told NPR News.
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Quarterback Michael Vick went to prison for 18 months for running a dog-fighting ring before getting signed by the Eagles in 2009.
In 2007, Vick was quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons when he was charged with federal felony crimes for running a large dog ring that trained pit bulls to fight against one another.
The Global Animal reports that more than 70 dogs were seized from his property by authorities and Vick later pled guilty to conspiracy charges and served 18 months in prison.
Upon release, he worked hard to get signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. Vick has clawed his way out of debt and currently has his own show, The Michael Vick Project, on BET.