Many convicts spend their lives going in and out of jail, never getting on the right track. But there are some who do make it out of the slammer and completely turn their lives around for the better. These people deserve some recognition for proving that criminals can be rehabilitated. Here’s a look at 10 famous ex-cons who turned it around and have successfully avoided getting drawn back into the bad habits that got them thrown into the clink in the first place:
Charles Colson worked as the former Special Counsel for President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973, and was best known for being part of the Watergate Seven. Colson pleaded guilty to Watergate-related charges and to obstruction of justice. He was sentenced for one to two years in prison, but only served seven months at the federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama. Colson made a change for the good while in prison. He converted to Christianity and became deeply impacted by the people he met there. Following his release, Colson started Prison Fellowship, a national ministry that helps prisoners develop or restore a relationship with Christ. Colson’s touching program has helped prisoners live a better life and strengthen their spirit.
Martha Stewart is best known as a business mogul and domestic diva, but her image certainly changed when she was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements. Essentially, Stewart lied to investigators about a stock sale and was later sentenced to five months in federal prison. After her release from Alderson Federal Prison Camp, Stewart launched her comeback. She returned to television with The Martha Stewart Show, released a couple books and took on several new projects that helped rebrand her name and reputation.
From 1996 to 2001, Robert Downey Jr. was one of Hollywood’s biggest bad boys. The actor was arrested several times during these years for drug-related charges involving possession of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Downey has battled substance abuse for the majority of his life and was unsuccessful in his drug treatment programs. He was constantly on probation and spent a year in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California. Downey eventually battled his addictions and made a highly successful comeback, starring in several blockbuster hits.
When Michael Vick was arrested for running an illegal interstate dog fighting ring and sentenced to three years in prison, football fans didn’t know if he’d ever return to the game. Vick pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 18 months in prison. After his release, Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and made a successful comeback. During his return season, Vick threw his longest touchdown pass of his career and helped his team win the NFC East title after stepping up as the starter quarterback. As part of his probationary obligations, Vick continues to speak to local youth about his mistakes and how to avoid a troubled life.
In the beginning of Tim Allen’s comedic career, he was arrested at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport in Michigan for possession of cocaine. Allen had just under 1.5 pounds of cocaine on him and was charged with drug trafficking. Because Allen disclosed the names of the other drug dealers, his original life sentencing was shortened to three to seven years. Allen was paroled after serving two years and four months at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota. The ex-convict quickly turned his life around after prison and became one of America’s favorite comedic actors.
Nicole Richie was most widely known for being a troubled teen with a reckless lifestyle until she finally turned her life around. In 2003, Richie was arrested and charged with possession of heroin and driving with a suspended driver’s license. Three years later, she was arrested again for a DUI after failing a sobriety test and reportedly driving the opposite way on the freeway. She was sentenced to four days in jail, but only served 82 minutes at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood, California. After her short stint in jail, Richie enrolled in an 18-month anti-drinking driver education program in order to get sober. Richie gave up her bad girl ways to focus on her career as a fashion designer, author and mother of two.
Christian Slater’s acting career took a beating when he was arrested three times from 1989 to 1997. His first run-in with the law was in 1989, when he was arrested for drunk driving and assault. In 1994, Slater was arrested for trying to board a plane with a gun in his luggage. His last conviction was for assaulting his then-girlfriend and a police officer who was trying to defend her. He was also under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Slater attended a rehabilitation facility for 100 days and then served 59 days in jail. After his release from jail, Slater made a successful comeback in television and film and turned his life around for the better.
Rap superstar 50 Cent, also known by his real name Curtis Jackson III, was arrested on drug-related charges and sentenced to three to nine years in prison in 1994. Back then, Jackson was still an aspiring rapper, who was determined to make something of himself after his release. 50 Cent did his time in an abbreviated six-month boot camp and earned his GED. After his release from behind bars, 50 Cent began rapping and his popularity surged with the release of his first album in 2000.
Danny Trejo earned his label as Hollywood’s most notable Mexican bad guy from his own experiences in the slammer. The heavily tattooed tough guy spent years in Los Angeles prisons for drug-related and robbery charges. There, Trejo got his life together and finally got clean. Since his release from prison, Trejo has gone on to star in several action films and television series.
Marion Jones was a world famous Olympian who won five medals in track and field at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, but was later stripped of her medals when she admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs for the competition. She was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for her use of steroids and her involvement in a check fraud scheme. She was sentenced to six months in prison and turned it around after her release. In 2010, Jones made a sports comeback as a point guard for the WNBA Tulsa Shock.