03 May Chris Schumacher (Ep. 46): Murder, 16-to-life, and a second chance
Chris Schumacher was a hard partying Californian who dealt weed to support his lifestyle. Then one day a suitcase of drugs disappeared – and his life was forever changed. In the mix of rage over the stolen drugs and fear of the consequences, Chris took a man’s life and was sentenced to 16-to-life. Chris walked into “The Yard,” navigated the gangs, racial tensions, and the unwritten rules all while knowing that as a “lifer” there’s a good chance he was never getting out. Chris committed to taking responsibility, getting sober, and preparing himself, just in case, he was given a second chance. He got a college degree and joined a program from The Last Mile where he learned software engineering and developed the Fitness Monkey app. In 2017, after serving 17 years, a parole board granted him his freedom. We discuss his re-entry into society, how he explains his dating status on Tinder, what he’d tell naysayers who don’t believe in second chances, and what he misses most about jail.
Learn More About Chris
Some facts about the US prison system
What role did “luck” play in Chris’ early release
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I did everything to prepare myself. I said yes to a lot things that other guys weren’t willing to do; “I don’t want to take that class, I’m afraid of going to that survivors panel, I’m really not ready to write those letters.” For each yes, each door I was willing to walk through, I found that more opportunities were waiting for me. I personally think life is defined by the things you say yes and no to. And you never know where that next yes is going to lead to.
What would you say to the naysayers
I think everyone is entitled to their opinion and I want to give them that. I also don’t think that there’s anybody in this life that hasn’t made a mistake – most aren’t as devastating as mine – but change is also possible. I don’t think you throw something away because it’s broken. To me, prison was the best thing that happened to me. Some of the most broken things have the ability to be fixed and whole again. And then they have the opportunity to prevent others from doing those things.
If you enjoyed this episode, check out
- Dan Sevigny on the whirlpool of addiction
- Maya Benattar on different types of trauma