“I’ve been through a storm. And I don’t mind sharing it,” says Fortune participant Dabney Hall. Dabney spent 40 years of his life in prison, and underwent a series of personal tragedies during that time. Between 1995 and 2002, his father, brother, mother, and aunt passed away. A cancer diagnosis of his own followed in 2003.
Rather than breaking down, Dabney chose to look inward and cultivate strength, positivity, and self-acceptance. “Instead of letting other people control my feelings, my actions, and my thoughts, I [learned] the true meaning of integrity and self worth,” he says. This awakening led Dabney to begin living life to the fullest. He began writing and taking advantage of positive programs available while incarcerated. As he explains, “To waste time is to exist. To use time is to live. I’m going to use this time to live.”
He continued this journey upon release in 2015, coming to The Fortune Society as a participant in the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program. While we’ve previously written about Dabney and his path at Fortune, we wanted to revisit his story and share more about his role as a mentor to others.
Now that he’s back in the community, Dabney cherishes the opportunity to share his hard-earned insights, in order to prevent others from entering the justice system. He has kept his prison uniform, which he often uses when telling his story. “When I do a presentation, I can let them know — this is my number,” he explains.
He loves doing presentations in the community, as well as talking one-on-one with other participants at Fortune. “When I meet certain people, and I get to know them, then I can break down what they’re going through. And I show them there [are] other ways [besides violence],” he explains.
Dabney stresses the importance of having life plans and following through on one’s aspirations. “What’s wrong with us today is that we don’t look at the bigger picture. We don’t plan,” Dabney says. “We need to focus on ourselves, and what we need to do and what we need in life—what we need to get [up the] corporate ladder.” He finds that this advice is particularly pertinent to youth. “I ask them, what is your goal or what is your dream? I give them certain scenarios to help them think.”
“The road to success is always under construction,” Dabney says. At Fortune, Dabney continues to build his own path. In addition to employment opportunities, the staff at the Better Living Center have been a huge help to his personal growth. “I let [my therapists] uncover things because they see the honesty and the [truth] within me,” he says. Today, he aims to continue peeling back the layers, while helping others surface their own truths, as well.