In 2017, the Sentencing Project reported that one in three Black men in the U.S. will be arrested during their lifetime. After completing their sentence, many of these Black men will commit another crime and return to prison.
Koch Industries believes that everyone has the right to justice including ex-convicts, which is why the company is fighting on the frontlines to end the cycle of mass incarceration in the U.S. by breaking barriers in the criminal justice system, employment, and society as a whole.
“We have a two-tiered society. And if you’re wealthy and connected, you get a much better deal than if you’re poor – particularly in our criminal justice system,” said senior vice president and general counsel at Koch Industries, Mark Holden in a statement.
“If you want to help people improve their lives and remove obstacles to opportunity for the least advantaged, and if you believe in individual liberty and freedom and justice, and you care about your community, and you have a moral passion, there’s no other position you can take other than being for criminal justice reform.”
Recently, Koch Industries partnered with Black Enterprise to produce the video series, “Success Beyond Bars” which highlights the stories of ex-offenders who have turned their lives around.
This month, the Los Angeles Sentinel had the opportunity to speak with ex-offender Lawrence Carpenter about his journey from ex-offender to self-made businessman.
At 11-years-old, Carpenter, a North Carolina native fell into the street life and began selling drugs as a means of survival.
“I grew up poor, [selling drugs] was all I knew,” he said.
By the age of 17, Carpenter was arrested for dealing and sentenced to six years.
After being released, Carpenter started selling drugs again only this time, he was better than before.
Nearly seven years later, he found himself behind bars for a second time.
After serving 11 months, Carpenter decided that wanted to turn his life around not just for him but for his family.
“The second time I got incarcerated I just felt stupid, like really. I didn’t even want people to know I was gone. Secondly, I had a family. So, my thought process was, ‘I never want to bring kids into the world for someone else to raise,” he said. “I always tell my daughters all the time that they are the ones who changed my life.”
For Carpenter, living a life of poverty was not an option for him and his family.
“Everybody makes mistakes but everybody just doesn’t get caught for them. So my whole thing was, the only way to not live in poverty and control my own destiny was entrepreneurship and starting my own business,” he said.
Today, Carpenter is the proud owner of Superclean Professional Janitorial Services where he has provided 19 years of commercial cleaning in the states of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Carpenter is also the co-owner of ZBS Trucking Company.
Aside from owning two business, Carpenter is a community activist and participates in prison ministry through his church. He is also the director of the organization, Inmates to Entrepreneurs which creates sustainable career opportunities for former inmates through mentorship and by assisting them with launching their very own businesses.
“Our work through Inmates to Entrepreneurs provides the resources and mentorship that individuals with a criminal background need to rise above the stigma associated with their conviction and create a path to economic opportunity,” said the organization in a statement.
“We strive to put an end to the revolving door of prisons and reverse the societal harms of recidivism.”
Carpenter encourages individuals who are reentering society after prison to do three things: (1) work on yourself, (2) know your lane, and (3) work hard.
“The only people you are selling out when you aren’t doing what you need to do to move forward is you and your family. We go all out for a lot of foolish things and it doesn’t better our lives. So, the same energy and effort we put into those things, we should put into the things that can build a career for ourselves so that we can take care of our families,” he said.
Carpenter is one of many ex-offenders who are refusing to let their criminal records interfere with their dreams!
Be sure to check out www.blackenterprise.com/videos/q/success+beyond+bars to view full episodes of the video series, “Success Beyond Bars.”
For more information on the work that Koch Industries is doing on criminal justice reform visit to www.kochind.com.