Chris Wilson – “The Master Plan” & Overcoming Adversity After Prison | The Daily Show

Chris Wilson – “The Master Plan” & Overcoming Adversity After Prison | The Daily Show

-Welcome to the show.
-Thanks for having me. Your book and your journey
is genuinely one of the most shocking stories
I have ever read. You lived a life -that many people should not
have emerged out of. -Right. Right? You-you talk
very early on in the book about how grew up in a world that your-your therapist
referred to as basically growing up
in a combat zone. -Exactly.
-What does that mean? It means there was a lot of gun
violence in my neighborhood. Uh, buried five of my friends
before the age of 17. I lost family members.
My brother was shot. My cousin was gunned down
in front of my house. And this stuff was happening
every couple of months. Right, and you-you lived
in this world where there was on… not only
violence on the outside, -but violence on the inside,
as well… -Right. Because you-you talk about
in the book– and it’s really
heart-wrenching– about how your mom was
physically abused -by your dad at the time,
who was a policeman. -Right. How did that… how did that
affect your-your world? I mean, because you’re-you’re
growing up in this world where there’s so much violence,
and then, -you have this man
who’s a policeman… -Right. who is creating even more
violence in your world. -So he was… so he was
my stepfather, though. -Right. But, um, my mom, um,
was dating him. It was a nightmare.
It was a nightmare, and it started out, um,
verbal abuse, and then it just became
physical, and because
he was a police officer, when my mom would call
the police, -they wouldn’t do anything.
-Right. Did that… did that change
your perception of police? ‘Cause most kids grow up
thinking the police are heroes. -Yeah, I actually wanted
to be a police officer. -Oh. I’m a little, like, embarrassed to admit that now,
but, like, police… (laughter) I mean… I mean,
Officer Friendly– -they would come to the school.
-Right, right, right. And it was, like…
it was… it was a role that I wanted to play,
and then, you know, my experiences
growing up– at least in my neighborhood– it was… it was just
a negative experience. You-you then go on to talk
about how… you went into a world
where crime was basically -the only avenue that was
opened up to you. -Right. You get into a life of crime
as a young kid, I think at 14. -Yes. -And by the time
you are 16, you’re deep into it. -And you-you get sentenced
to life in prison. -Yes. -At the age of 17?
-17, yeah. 17 years old, sentenced
to life in prison. What is… what is going
through your mind when that’s happening? When that… when that verdict
comes down, what is happening
in your brain? It was… it was like
receiving a death sentence, and as you can imagine, going to prison is like being
teleported to another planet. -Right. -And so… And I only
weighed, like, 120 pounds, so I was, like, super terrified
of going into prison -as a child being charged
as an adult… -Right. and having to grow old and die
there, and so, I was terrified. And what had you
been arrested for? -Um, first-degree murder.
-Right. And so, now, you-you lived
in this world of violence, you’re a 17-year-old who’s been
sentenced to life in prison, you go into prison– this is
a story that seems like… -it’s ended now.
-Right. And yet that is
just the beginning -of the story in this book.
-Right. Genuinely, one of the most
amazing stories ever, because you-you…
you set goals for yourself, you get into prison,
and then you decide that you’re going to make
your life better, in prison. -Right.
-Why? So, I knew growing up,
my mom had instilled in me that I was a good person. I’ve always wanted
to be an entrepreneur, and, like, growing up, playing
chess and playing the cello, people in my neighborhood would
say, “Man, that’s not cool, man. You don’t do that.” So I
never really applied myself. And so once I was finally, uh, I
was sentenced to life in prison, and everyone was like,
“Just get comfortable, you’re gonna grow old and
die there,” I knew in my heart that I was a good person,
so I wanted to write up a plan and apply myself
and prove to myself and prove to everyone else
that my life was redeemable. Right. And when
you were in prison, did you feel like prison
helped you believe -that your life was redeemable?
-No. No. Prison, like,
it was mostly punitive, and they were telling me,
“Get comfortable, you’re gonna grow old and die
there,” but there were people that I met in prison who
actually saw a potential in me and gave me hope
that I can get out. Right. You talk
about one of your… one of your cellmates
who forced you to learn math, -Yeah.
-and he would punish you if you couldn’t get
the answers right. I mean, which is, I mean,
a great way to learn math. -Right, yeah.
-(laughter) Being in a prison cell with
someone, you’d be like, “Yeah, “I’m-I’m-a learn my…
I’m-a learn my four-times table. I’ll learn this.” That’s an
interesting way to learn, right? Interesting, right.
Love this guy to death. Um, he would give me
math problems, and then he would say, “I’m
gonna give you this problem, “and you need to beat your time,
and if you can’t do it, “you either got
to drink a cup of water -or you got to do 25 push-ups.”
-Right. -So I put on a lot of muscle
in there, like… -(laughter) But also got
my high school diploma -in, like, two months.
-Right. Now, you… you-you talk about this journey, and when you…
when you went into prison, -it was a life sentence. Right?
-Yes. But then you get out
after how many years? 16 1/2 years. And that, for many people,
is the beginning of an ending, -because you are now a felon.
-Right. You are now someone who
society has deemed dangerous. -Right.
-You are somebody who has been, you know, found guilty
of first-degree murder. -Right. -Where do you
even begin your journey now? So, throughout
my prison sentence, I knew that society
would look at me that way. And I would see a lot of people
get out of prison and come back in prison,
and so I had in my mind, you know, kind of,
like, a mental fortitude that I was gonna be able
to get out there and just work really hard
to prove people wrong. And then oftentimes,
we always hear the stories about people getting out
and committing other crimes, -Right. -so I wanted
to prove everybody wrong -by showing that we can come
home and be successful. -This… What was interesting–
and this is fascinating -about Chris’s story…
-(cheering and applause) …is you… you-you went into prison being what many people would
consider the worst of society. -Right.
-And in that time, you-you go in, you study. What are all the achievements
that you… that you did for yourself
in prison? -Just list them, ’cause
it’s really impressive. -Okay. So, I… First,
I got my high school diploma. -Uh-huh. -I got
my college degree in sociology. -Right. -I taught myself
to read and write and speak -in Spanish, Italian.
-Uh-huh. Went on to learn Mandarin. Start a book club.
Start a career center. -(laughs)
-(cheering and applause) -And on and on and on
and on, yeah. -Right. Yeah, I just… So, I mean, you-you come out
with all these skills. You go out into the real world, but the real world
doesn’t appreciate a person who has
rehabilitated themselves. -We’ve learned this in society.
-Not at all. Right. We’re trying to change that,
but we have learned that. You start going into business. You want to become
a businessperson, -but banks don’t want
to give you loans. -Right. -Yeah. -So how do you
even begin that journey of getting the money?
How-how does that work? So, it’s actually very,
very strange, too. Like, going into banks…
My companies… When I started my first company,
it was profitable. I was making, you know,
like, $20,000 a month. And I would go into the bank and say, “I need
a $5,000 line of credit.” And, like, every bank,
like, told me no. And eventually I found out -it was because I was
a convicted felon. -Right. And so it just made it
very difficult for me to be successful, and that’s what happens
to a lot of people when they come home from prison. It’s like,
you want to do the right thing, and doors just shut
everywhere you turn. And so it’s very, very,
uh, very difficult. And now you-you’ve decided to
make that part of your purpose. -Yes.
-What does your company do, and how do you work
with, uh, with people who have come out of prison? So, I started my first company, which is
a furniture design company, making high-end furniture. I started a second company, a construction contracting
company. And both of my companies… I didn’t know it at the time
when I was in prison, but I wanted to create
opportunities for people. And, so, I now know the term
“social entrepreneur.” But I create job opportunities for people who need…
who need help the most. And, so… I’m-I’m,
you know, very, uh, proud -of the work I’ve done since
I’ve been in Baltimore. -Right. (cheering and applause) Someone who-who is pro,
you know, a punitive system might say, “Chris… “clearly America’s
prison system works “because you went in
as a murderer, “and then you came out
as a model citizen. Isn’t that what the prison
system is supposed to do?” How would you respond to that? So, I would push back
on that, right? So… But it all depends
on who you ask. Some people think the
prison systems are working fine. They’re decimating, uh,
communities and people of color. Um, but, you know, I think that
the prison system is broken, and it didn’t help me. I had to really, like,
push myself, um, to learn all I can. And even when I finished
vocational shop or got my high school diploma, -I read hundreds and hundreds
of books. -Right. Um, but the other thing
I’ll say, too, is, you know, we got to think about what
we’re doing to our children. I went to prison as a child, and, you know,
my brain wasn’t developed. You know, uh,
my life was threatened, and I took a person’s life,
and that’s wrong, right? But my life
shouldn’t have been thrown away. And, you know, as-as a society, we should–
we should be more thoughtful of giving children who commit
crimes a second chance. -So I’m– I’ve dedicated my life
-(applause) to, um, being of worth for them. If you go back in your life and you look at that decision
that you made to take somebody else’s life, what do you think could have
changed in your community that could have prevented you from getting into the life
that you did? I mean, there-there’s
a lot of things, right, um, in my neighborhood. Like, one, like,
the-the crack epidemic that swept
through my neighborhood. Um, our teachers,
um, were underpaid. There was a lot of crime.
There were so many things. -Right.
-I can’t really, um, say what-what a magical solution
would have been. But I guess, like, the
shortest answer would’ve been, um, like, my mom– if my mom had, like,
more support. Like, my mom was sexually
assaulted in front of me. And, as a victim,
I watched her slip downhill. And there was no help for her. Even watching all my friends
die, there was no one
to come talk to me and say, “How you feeling about, like,
watching your friend die?” -They would just say,
“It’ll be okay.” -Mm-hmm. And I would think
about these images every day, and I couldn’t concentrate
in school. I couldn’t, like, function. I had to sleep on the floor because stray bullets
would come to our h– go through our house.
And so it’s tough. And a lot of children grow up
like that. And so I want to be a voice
to speak out against these conditions
and-and continue to do so. When-when you look at, um, people who have come out
of prison now, do you try and tell them
the importance of-of speaking to someone? Do you tell them
the importance of therapy? -Do you– do you try
and get them into that? -Right. So that’s something
that’s-that’s very, very important. Um, I talk about this
in the book. Um, there’s, like, 30-something
things that you can do -and implement
in your own Master Plan. -Right. And, like, the first one is,
like, man, write that shit down, right? Write it down, um, and-and give, like,
someone else, like, a copy of your list so
they can hold you accountable. And, like, me,
I did my grandmother. ‘Cause, like, no one tells–
no one, like– You know, you always obey
your grandmother, right? -Right.
-So, um, I had other things, like, you know, create your own
personal board of advisors. Right? So, someone who’s, like,
an expert in, like, finance or, like, you know,
relationships. And you just take ’em out
for lunch, like, once a month. -You just do stuff like that.
-Right. And-and, like, finally, just,
like, never, never quit. Never give up. And surround yourself with,
like, positive people that push you. And-and, often, people say, “You know,
your story is amazing.” And maybe it is. But there’s nothing special
about me. I only made it this far
because a handful of people saw potential in me
a-and pushed me to make me believe
that I could be successful. And it’s still like this
to this day. I disagree, man. I think
your story’s very special. I think you’re an amazing guy. It’s not a perfect story, and that’s what makes it perfect
to talk about. The Master Plan,
an amazing story, an amazing book,
is available now. Chris Wilson, everybody.

You May Also Like

About the Author: Sam Caldwell


  1. Bro I will download your book next month on audible I support you. Please dont let me down. Mean be human but never go back to square one. Or bottom of the barrel you are some one I can look up to coming from hard life. But still see that no matter how hard it gets there is truly always a silver lining keep going never stop. Love you man

  2. Cops are terrorists period. This a statement of fact and not up for debate. The set of cops that aren't terrorists is the empty set since the only cops that aren't terrorists actually arrest cops when they break the law.

  3. He's speaking at the Book Passage in Marin County this Monday. He may be doing a bit of a tour so do a google search. Very interested in social entrepreneurship.

  4. I think Chris hit on one of the big reasons that our recidivism rates are so high when he spoke about not being able to get a line of credit even though he was running a profitable company. How is it possible for people with a rap sheet to reintegrate into a society that refuses to include them? Keep up the great work, Mr. Wilson.

  5. Chris, you are such an inspiration. I just want to give you a big hug. I wish you much continued success. Thank you Trevor for highlighting this remarkable young man.

  6. @ Chris Wilson. the story of your time in prison reminded me of Malcolm X's "A Homemade Education."You are right on target that the system is broken. Please keep sharing-I teach at an inner-city high school with kids who are functionally illiterate, who in gangs, sell drugs and are apathetic because they can't meet the expectations for state-mandated tests. One of my kids followed in his father's footsteps and spent 4 years in prison. 7 of my students have died from over the past 14 years at this school from being shot by someone they knew. 7 kids in prison for murder. All they need is someone to truly believe in them and help those children be successful academically and overcome the obstacles of being in the middle of gang violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and drug addiction/alcohol addiction. Let's stop the cycle! Be that person that reaches out to help that child find his or her path to a better life.

  7. So sad that there are so many people that believe if you commit a crime not only should you serve time but should be punished over and over for the rest of your life.

  8. Chris are an amazing testament to self will in a positive direction! Amen…keep being amazing👏👏🙌🏼

  9. Did I miss it or did Trevor NOT do a show about Ilhan Omar and her recent AIPAC/ABRAMS expose' – did Trevor get gagged on that one??? Do the show Trevor!

  10. Much respect to the brother. Realize how he had little to nothing but still gave credit to those who helped him on his journey. Less pride = more opportunities.

  11. If at first you thought like i did, saying to yourself, "overcoming adversity happens for example when two adult black men stop crying to X people about adversity and start building spaceships." Oh the babies cry, "THEY wont let us build a space ship". 😢😢

    Currently, The people who are making spaceships for real do have people trying to stop them, but they also have people trying to support them. And then they accomplish their goal. They put their pants on one leg at a time the same as I.

    I'll ask a black man whats more scarier then a racist cop (a barrier) – answer: putting my resources together with another black man. Scariest thing in the world.

    Example: Graduating to a university is a huge individual accomplishment, but it doesn't mean du didley if the degree doesn't produce tangibles.

    Theory vs Practice, talk vs touch.
    Do you see a spaceship pilot talking about the Wright brothers everyday. No! Mr Spaceship pilot doesn't say much about racial or social adversity, he just points to his fkn spaceship.

    They will say we can't make a space ship until we fix our weak foundation. OMG, how long does it take to learn about pointless skin pigmentation? I say start building a spaceship and that will help support a stronger foundation, lets see what new electricities are out there.

  12. What about the girl that 10 years old that stomped a baby that got sentenced as an adult but could not get treatment because she is too young… exactly!

  13. I lived in Baltimore in a transitional neighborhood where there was middle class and drug houses alike. There was a young boy that had a 4 siblings and a mother who was at nest worthless. He was mixed and didn’t fit in with black or white kids well. He was very intelligent. I used to help him time to time fixing his bike of their bathroom sink, but I tried to teach him skills and build his self esteem. I taught him how to defend himself. When gangs came through the neighborhood looking to force recruit him I’d chase them off. Sadly, I couldn’t be there for him daily and by the time he was 15 he was in with a sub-gang relates the the Crips. He was busted on 3 felonies at 16 for grand theft and drugs and was given a reprieve because the officer was shipping to Iraq before the hearing. That didn’t wake him up. At 21 he and a friend eventually raped and murdered a highschool honor student, ransacked her house and tried to burn it down. I knew this boy since he was 6. Watching him turn into the monster he became was tragic. He stopped accepting my help and advice. He disrespected my wife on another occasion. I’d see him on a hike near the local drug hotspot dealing looking as crazy as a madman. He was beyond my help by the time he was 18 and as long as he lived close by I feared his presence enough to not let my young kids play out front. He’s now serving a life sentence + 80 years and at 21 his life was over. His mother never really disciplined him and his siblings and was more interested in her next boyfriend than her kids.

    Chris Wilson’s journey is really not typical. It sounds like he had a good mother who had him involved with life enriching activities and let him know he was special and loved. Not many kids in fails urban areas like Baltimore, Detroit, LA, Atlanta and other high crime areas get even that and see only a life of crime ahead. Such as was the case the the boy I knew. He had the intelligence to be whatever he wanted. Yet he wasn’t even a smart criminal. He never really had much of a chance and he managed to take another promising life down along with his own.

  14. Brother murdered a human being Got a FREE Education, Aide to start businesses and wants to cry about the prison system. Mean while we're in debt for thousands of dollars…Just tell me who to kill!!!

  15. hats off to this person, who doesn't say I'm proud to be an American or African-American, but who says – I'm proud of the work I've done. Makes a world of difference

  16. This person killed someone. What about the rights of the victim? Millions of people grow up in violence, abuse and despair. That's not an excuse to kill. It is so disgusting to see someone like this cheered on. Especially after the heartache he caused someone's family.

  17. Mandarin? 😳 I mean becoming fluent in Spanish and Italian is quite impressive on its own, but Mandarin?! Wow!
    Yes, Trevor, society doesn't appreciate people who have rehabilitated themselves in the United States. But the moment he became fluent in Spanish, that opened up Spain and most of Latin America to him, the moment he learned Italian, that opened up Italy, Switzerland, various countries in Eastern Europe, and a couple countries in Africa, and the moment he learned Mandarin, he was able to communicate with about 20% more of the World's population than he could before.
    What's more, English, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin are each languages used in the UN. Maybe this fellow could offer them his services.

  18. 40 people did not like this, but you listen and love a rapper that is trying to tell your kids its okay to kill, treat women bad and sell drugs to other terrible things like pushing murder by motivation, but this man really killed and his book is about making our lives better and becoming better people. Something we can pass on.

  19. I agree with him on 99% of his arguments about rehabilitation etc, but what about the life of the person that he killed that went to waste???

  20. These are the kinds of stories we could use more of; with understanding and inspiration. It's a good reminder that the entire world hasn't completely gone to shit yet. Lol. Love this show. 💙

  21. What an Inspirational History, waooo, i feel kind that way but more deeply sadly, i can understand you perfectly when you wanna look for answers and nobody anwer you, i dont commit any crimes but ive been loosing a lot of things i can Bring to the World, and i know our lives our Invaluables, are Uniques, and more in this last Times of the Mankind and Universe and all you can Imagine, we are the last Ones, with the Power to Decide, what we Want.
    Thanks for share this and God keep blessing you.

    The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) focuses on understanding what racism is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone.

  23. Thanks to Trevor Noah for highlighting Chris Wilson's story. These are TWO amazing men; a hearty Bravo! to each of them!

    (Dang, I sure wish I could have italicized "Bravo!"; this venue is SO limiting.)

  24. Thank you for inviting Mr. Chris Wilson on your show. He's definitely an inspiration. I hope more people get to hear his story especially young people that may be in similar circumstances.

  25. Trevor Noah is doing something special with this show. LOVE. We definitely need social justice reform with regard to our criminal justice system.

  26. This young man really turned his life around, he most importantly didn't feel sorry for his self. And he took responsibility for locations as a teenager. Have to applaud. He said his life was being threatened. Welcome back to society Chris!! God bless you.

  27. Beautiful outcome. However, what about the victim? I wonder if the victim also grew up in a life of violence and unfortunately died violently? It seems to me he had more than many growing up. Cello lessons, a mother who although she was suffering, fiercely supported her child. As a social worker, and a person who went through the foster care system as a child, I've met and worked with children as young as 8 years who were forced to get their meals from a city trash can, as well as sleep on park benches in violent neighborhoods. And now find themselves going to prison for drugs, violent crimes, etc. There were no music lessons or warm beds ever. Great story… would like to know more… guess I have to buy the social entrepreneur's book.

  28. Thank you Chris for being openminded and clear and for sharing your life with us, not enough imaginative to understand without you exposing your guts. And thanks to Trevor for your good sense for the important things in life and to weight in, inpercebtible like the paper on wich we write

  29. Noah needs to respond better after his guests answer.. not “ right” after a devastating comment from the guests.. dayum

  30. Congratulations Chris Wilson! Great story! What are you doing to help the family of the victim? Hopefully you are giving back to them. Unfortunately, systematically, young blacks are at a disadvantage in this country. Especially when growing up in the hood. We as a society must change this narrative! Great that you are doing your part…

  31. I’m just now finishing Chris’s book and I highly recommend it, it’s in most libraries—check it out (literally). His story is amazing and inspirational. I’m close to someone who is a convicted felon and our society keeps punishing those who have paid their debts to society, couldn’t get a job, had no place to live, no relatives around, eventually someone hired him and a kindhearted landlord rented a small apartment to him, but his life will probably not be any better than it is now (he’s also in a a somewhat isolated area and can’t afford to leave), very frustrating situation, prison should rehabilitate, not punish, these people hardly stand a chance when paroled. I’m happy for Chris, he’s an inspiration to others.

  32. For once a black person who a acknowledges therapy and not religion for their healing. If more black people valued therapy to resolve childhood truama we could actually reduce crime rates in our communities.

  33. Life in prison in MN is defined as 25 years, not sure about other states. A sentence can add "without the chance of parole."

  34. My husband is a criminal defense attorney- I am buying this book for as many of his clients as I can. Thank you for allowing this man to tell his story to your audience!

  35. Crime is not your only option in horrible neighborhoods, that’s a choice. Because you live in the ghetto does not make you ghetto. I was raised in the ghetto on welfare, I knew pimps, heroin addicts, thieves, crooks, gangsters BLACK STONE RANGERS SOUTHSIDE CHICAGO, WARLORDS EAST SAINT LOUIS. I had some friends who chose the bad side called me a punk, they are now either dead, prison , or still in the hood. Everyone in my family got out of the hood. I give back to the hood in whatever city I live in, but I refuse to live there. I took my kids to the hood so they can see how lucky they are to be raised by me, because we don’t get to choose our parents. My parents were horrible, should have never had kids. I was 9 years old when I started to see things how they really are. I then decide to get out as soon as possible. I watched and talked to successful people and emulated what they did to be successful. I watch people who were losers, my parents, friends parents, and others, and did none of the things they were doing. Life is simple if you do not be a follower and think for yourself. Like Chris Rock says being a “N” is a life choice, dancing on the pole is a life choice.

  36. I’ll never stop finding it curious and frustrating how some people have so much will to overcome their situation and adversity in general. I guess he acknowledges his own contribution to what happened to him, but it’s still entirely a situation where he was, in the beginning, what society made of him.

    That kind of struggle is not one that I could survive. What I’ve gone through is almost nothing by comparison and I’m defeated and broken by it. I don’t have the belief or interest in entrepreneurship to use it as a platform to set goals and targets to improve my life. Many don’t, but we are told it is the American way, and all that matters.

    Chris Wilson’s example is a bizarre mixture of both horrible bad luck and probably great good luck. He was set up to fail by the society he was born into, but he also found some help along the way, from people willing to let him become more than what he was. It’s probably easy to get caught up in the survivorship bias with the story as presented here, which was partially addressed when Trevor asked him “how do you respond when people say you’re proof that the system works?”

    Not only does the prison system not work, the economic opportunity propaganda we have thrown at us daily is also a lie. He survived not just a childhood of horrors, not just prison, but also a racist and rigged economic system. I don’t know what gives some people the fortitude to put up with constant fucking adversity.

  37. Being a latin minority this book is amazingly inspiring and beautifully painful of a reality many of us can relate to. It will make you cry and major props to Steve! (if you read it, you know) ❤️ We need more inspirational stories like these.

  38. This goes out to all of those who have been incarcerated. I was serving time at Patuxent around the same time as Chris and I was in the Youth Program as well. Those F-3, E-3 and E-1 days. I blame everyone – myself included – for allowing people to treat us the way they do after we've served our time. I went to Annapolis to speak on our behalf and very little to no one showed up. I can't take of myself or a family with $60 a day. I was one of those dudes who tried. An advocate for change only to be disregarded once I came home. I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me but I'm not the same person I was at 19. I'm 42 now and all I want is a chance to prove to myself that I'm worthy of another opportunity to make things right.

  39. Mr. Noah, I need Mr. Wilson's contact information. I work for Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka Ks and I need him to come speak to the youth her. I know that he will impact change in our staff and youth population. Please contact me at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *