How Chris Wilson turned his prison sentence into a new life of art and service


When Chris Wilson was sentenced to life without parole at the age of 17, he devised a plan to turn his life around. While incarcerated, he started writing down everything he wanted to do in life. He called it “The Master Plan.”

Now a successful artist, entrepreneur and author of “The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose.” Wilson gives an inspiring look at how he embraced education, set goals and ultimately convinced a judge to allow him to re-enter society.

Wilson, a Washington D.C. native, joined Salon’s D. Watkins on “Salon Talks,” to unpack how his master plan changed his outlook on life and led him to a life of freedom and service. “I knew in my heart I was a good person, and that I could do something meaningful in life, and so I wrote out kind of like a bucket list. It was things that I wanted to do in my life,” Wilson told Watkins.

The list inspired Wilson’s laser focus on completing his education and utilizing therapy while in prison. “I had to figure out a way how to stay out of trouble,” Wilson said. And while it seems like an incredible story that he was able to overcome a life sentence after 10 years, Wilson insists “there’s nothing really special” about him.

“I'm not an anomaly. There's a lot of Chris Wilsons that are in prison.” Wilson says he wants to identify others like him and “support them, and let them know they can be successful.” Since re-entry, Wilson is actualizing that goal and serving as a mentor for others in neighborhoods like the one he grew up in.

Watch the full episode above to hear how Wilson embraced painting to cope with PTSD and his take on what federal initiatives and programs can begin to solve the systematic problems that Americans serving time face.


About “Salon Talks”

Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on Salon.com.


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