Transformation and Redemption: Frank’s Journey from Incarceration to Empowering Others

In this episode of the Prisoner’s Pardon podcast, host Michi J interviews Frank, a re-entry recruiter at Partners in Hope who was formerly incarcerated. Frank shares his inspiring journey of transformation and redemption, detailing how he changed his mindset and life circumstances through faith and self-discipline. He emphasizes the importance of rethinking one’s habits, humanizing oneself, and not giving up. Frank also discusses the impact of his incarceration on his family and offers insights into his work helping others re-enter society smoothly. Listeners are encouraged to reach out to Frank for guidance and support.

00:00 Introduction and Welcome

00:56 Meet Frank: From Incarceration to Inspiration

01:28 Changing Mindsets: The Journey to Renewal

03:22 The Transformation: From Big Frank to Frank

08:01 Respect and Identity: A New Way of Living

12:01 Family Impact and Personal Responsibility

16:21 The Role of a Reentry Recruiter

21:51 Discipline and Habit Changes

25:57 Final Thoughts and Contact Information

Guest Information

The Community Warehouse and Partners In Hope- Milwaukee WI


Hello everyone. And welcome to a prisoner's pardon podcast. I'm Michi J your host. And today we have a special show. As always, today we are going to be talking to Frank. Frank is a good friend of mine. He is a employee of Partners in Hope. You heard me talk many times about Partners in Hope. It's a great, great organization. He is the re entry recruiter there. Now Frank was formerly incarcerated, but he is out and he is doing great. And I want you to hear from him because he is doing some amazing things. Now let me introduce you to Frank. Hi Frank. Hi, how you doing miss J? Hey, how are you? It's good. Good. Good. It's good to have you on the show. I thought I would have you on because you have an incredible story. I want you to talk about, you know, what. What it is that you do at Partners in Hope, and what are you all about now? Because people need to know how great you are and what you're doing there at Partners in Hope. Well, what I do here, I'm the re entry recruiter here at Partners in Hope. And what I try to do is get men and women who have been impacted by the system to change their way of thinking. the way they thought before they went into the system and the way they're thinking now needs to be just totally different. And I discovered that, throughout my 26 years of incarceration, that I had to change my way of thinking in order for me to be able to come out back in here to society and be able to function or be successful. And when I say successful, I don't mean in a monetary way, but I mean, just in a practical way of just being able to live out here and not just exist. So you mentioned you had to change your way of thinking. How did you do that? Well, basically I had to really just strip myself down from what I was and who I was to become the person or the man of God that God had designed me to be, you know, uh, if I may use scripture in Romans chapter 12, verse one, it talks about us renewing our minds. And I believe that's where it had to start in the renewing of my mind. So to renew my mind. All the things that I thought about I did as a child as a person growing up before I was incarcerated. I had to just really detach those things from my way of thinking from my being totally in order for me to be able to rebuild myself. if you take the analogy of, uh, a potter, a person that does pottery. When they mess up on a particular, uh, piece that they're working on, they'll, they'll tear it down. They'll tear it down and rebuild it to shape it and mold it to where they want it to be. And so that's what I had to do with myself. I had to allow myself to be torn down, stripped of who I was. and say the old name Big Frank and become Frank. And in order for me to do that, I had to just detach myself from all my ways of thinking, the people that I dealt with, the things that I did, the places I went, the books I read, the TV shows I watched, the music I listened to, all those things had to be just changed and renewed. Now, some things I held on to, I will tell you that I still like jazz. I love my jazz music. I still like some old R& B stuff, but I'm real particular about that as well. and I knew once I started that process, it just became a continual thing with me where I no longer desired to do the things that I'd done as a, as, prior to my incarceration. Those things did not, entertain me anymore or excite me anymore because I found a new way of living that was more profitable for me. Okay, that's pretty good. So you said you had to strength. I like how you went from big Frank to Frank. because those sort of nicknames kind of kind of dictate behavior a lot, right? That's correct. That's correct. As Big Frank, I was more of the, uh, the mean, um, bully, uh, intimidator type of individual. I remember in high school, a young man used to tell me in high school, like, you could smile sometimes. And my persona, Was just that it wasn't a whole lot for me to smile about because I was just trying to intimidate you growing up and say at 17 was she she mentioned that to me and that stuck with me as I grew into this young lady to tell me that because this is what she's seen and I wasn't like I wasn't that approachable person that I really wanted to be though I had that about her. Thought in my mind that I wonder why people didn't approach me in a certain way. Well, this is what I was given up that I really didn't want to be approached by people just by the persona that I gave off. So you said, your name kind of signified that, um, you wanted to be intimidating. So why did, do you know why you were wanting to be intimidated? Uh, yeah, I could say yes because as a, as a younger man, I was intimidated by people. And so as I grew up and, my body stopped filling out, I started maturing physically. and I got some size on me. Well, now I can be the intimidated cause I was intimidated. And most, I would say most. Men or women who grow up and become like that is because of what happened to them in their childhood, in their past. And now they're saying, no longer will I be the one being intimidated. I'll be the intimidated. Because, you know, you don't want to feel that way anymore. So now you want to do it, not kind. You don't think constantly like I don't want nobody else to feel how I felt growing up, but you just do it. And so that became a part of who I was and, growing up in my day. Uh, yeah, you wanted to be a man. You walk in the room and everybody just kind of look at you and say, yeah, you know, you show that strength. So that's just who I, who I had become. Okay, that makes sense. So we kind of, we, we get dealt that hand sometimes. And so we start dealing it out to others unknowingly. When did you consciously start realizing that it was something you were dealing with? unconsciously doing? Was it when that young lady told you that? She kind of gave me some awareness of it. So I was around 16 or 17. Then she gave me an awareness of it. But though I kept going living that way, but it was just over a course of time. I noticed that people, gave me that type of respect. Uh, but that's where the name Big Frank came in. And so that respect came along with my actions. And so I guess that's how I gained other things that I had accomplished. Because I intimidated people. So that's what, happened. Yeah, I like how you mentioned respect because everybody wants to be respected and that's just how you got that respect. So I can see how that can be easily done. I'm sure many people, want that sort of respect. Not necessarily in that way, everyone deserves respect is we should actually be giving more respect. So now that you're not. Being big Frank, do you get respect still as Frank? Sure. I get respect now because of how I carry myself. I get that respect now because, the person I have become over a course of time, people have seen me, And the words that come forth from my mouth. That's how I live my life. Now. I just don't speak the words and not walk it, but I walk the walk that I talk. And so the respect comes out of that, you know, how the integrity that I have, people just have come to know me now at this age and over the last 26 years that I was incarcerated of how I carried myself and how I dealt with individuals. It wasn't a more of a, thing of trying to intimidate them, even though I was in the correctional system and you would think in prison you had to be, uh, disintimidated. I'm used for lack of words. My swag that I had as a, as an individual prior to my incarceration, the swag was still there. I just use it in a different way. Right, right. So when we choose the right way to get the necessary things, we can still get gratification from it. We can still feel good about it. Am I understanding this right? Because you still, you've got the respect that you were wanting in the first place, but you got it with. Being a man of character, being a man of character, being a man of God. and if I may allude to this, uh, again, to Apostle Paul, prior to his conversion on the Masters Road with Christ, he lived a certain way because this is how he was. Taught under the Sanhedrin. He was taught to be this particular individual. He thought what he was doing was correct, but it was not correct the way he was living his life. And so the respect he got then was from an intimidation fact. You know, he was a persecutor of the Christians and stuff like that. And so that's what he got his respect for. But when he became, a man of God and he was living, uh, for Christ. Swag is the same use, I'm say use the same word, that swag that he had as the persecutor of the Christians. He still had it, but he was just using it in a different way. 'cause now he's more informed on what he really should be doing. He was misinformed at one time, now that he's been given this particular knowledge and he's living for Christ now. His way of living. He's still that same individual. He just lives a different way now. So when people see him, they say, well, that's because that scripture said, well, that's the guy that was persecuting the Christians. And they said, no, no longer does he do that. This is how he lives now. So he gained that respect by how he became how you start to live his life. And so the same way with me, uh, understanding that. I lived a certain way and I carried myself as a man, walk upright with my shoulders up straight. I still do that. But now how my mission in life is different than it was at that particular time. Okay, so you know, first he was Saul, but then he just like you, he went from, he went from big Frank to Frank. He went, but God changed his name and meant something else, you know? So he was a new person and that's the same for you. But I like that you brought this story up because Paul was persecuting his own people, the Christians, because he was converted. So a lot of times. When we get into the system, we kind of persecute our own people, meaning our communities, our family and stuff like that. So you have a family. I know you have twins, right? You have boys. I'm pretty sure, like anybody, when we do stuff, it affects our family. And did that have any impact on you to actually change? It had a big impact on me. I have five children, three sons and two daughters. Okay. And when I left the street and went into the correctional system, my eldest son, he hit the street because now my leadership was no longer there in his life. So he hit the street and he ended up doing 13 and a half years in the federal system. And I believe that's because of my absence in his life. He didn't have that father figure there right in front of him. my twins that you spoke on, I only lived on the street with them a month of their lives. Uh, just by the grace of God, their mother, she had a, a lot of influence upon their lives because of the way she lived her life. My daughters, now they're both, parole officers, but my absence in their lives was crucial because now they don't have that father figure or that male figure in their lives to show them, basically this is how a man should treat a woman or, cause that's very important to women, I believe. And so, um, And change in my life and me wanting to change that was the main thing, me wanting to change and be who I knew I should be. Let me say this right quick. It was my aunt Sarah came to visit me in the county jail when I first got incarcerated back in 96, and she said, you need to find yourself. Because the man that committed this crime, that's not you. And she knew me very well from a child. She knew me when she said, no, that's not you. You need to find yourself because that's not who you are. That's no, I don't know. That's not you. And so when I searched scripture and God said, let us make man and our likeness and our image, and that allowed man to have dominion. over the world. Uh, that gave me understanding that in order for me to be who God had chosen me to be, I need to find out who I really and truly was. And for me to ever be a father, or a husband, or a son, or uncle, or grandfather, or a great grandfather, I really need to find out Who I was, and as I searched and started to unpeel, to peel these layers off of me, this, this mess off of me, and then, then Frank started to blossom and bloom in the world. Then I started to understand, this is who I really am right here. I'm not this person right here who did the drugs or who took a life. I'm not this person who was out here being an intimidator or stuff like that. That's not who I am. I am a child of God. I can, I can be this child of God and still carry myself in an upright and a strong manner as God has chose me to be. I'm not a weakling or anything like that, but I had to realize who I really was and who I really am in order for me to really become a man. See, I was a male. When I went into the prison system, I was not a man. I was just a male by gender only by gender. And I wasn't a, I had not become a man in the sense of who I was chosen to be. But, my being responsible, a man of integrity, uh, stuff like that, that was not who I was when I went into the system at 35, I was just a male. That was it. I'm glad you made that point because. a lot of people don't know what a man is. They just have that gender and it's a character and have an integrity, taking responsibility and leadership. And yeah, we see this a lot within our community and. When you said about, you know, you didn't have that leadership, your son, it's like, it is whether we like it or not, we are leading them wherever we are going, wherever we are at. And, it's something we have to pay attention to that kids do. They are watching us. Not necessarily what we say, but what we do and they will follow you. yes, yes, That's something to keep in mind. I really applaud you for what you've been doing because you're in the community. You are a reentry recruiter. And how does you know what you've been through, how does that help you do your job as a reentry recruiter. I believe it helps me because I'm, I can relate to where they've been. And trying to get them to a whole different mindset. I relate and I can prior to going to prison, I used to work with men, uh, with young men from eight to 20 as a basketball coach in the summer. Right. And I know in order to relate to them, I had to kind of like get down in the dirt with them pretty much, you know, and, uh, Paul, you know, Paul made that statement. He said he becomes all things to all men so that he may win them to Christ. So I got to get to their level. And so because I did this largest over a quarter century of time in the system, I know where they're coming from and being out for a couple of years now. I know the hurdles that, that they're going to have to face because I still first face some hurdles myself now, but now I take, I look at the hurdle and I said, I figure out how do I get over this hurdle? Not that it's just going to be, some of this going to stop me because I ain't thinking what is stopping me is me if I allow that to happen. And so when I deal with these men and women that are coming out of the system, I want to relate to them. I want to hear, I want to know what they're all about. I want to know where they want to go. I don't care where you've been. I don't care what you've done in your past. I want to know what do you want to to do, where are you trying to go, and how can I help you get there, and if I could. Uh, pour something into you. If I can give you something, give something back to you that was given to me, that's going to help their lives, help them to move forward in life. That's my goal is to, and it really, my goal is to make them feel human, is to humanize. These men and women because, you know, going into the system, you're stripped of who you are. You're stripped of just your name. You don't because you no longer name you're now a number. And so I want them to feel him. I want them to feel love. But I want to understand that. Hey, this is not a game out here that that that you're going to be living in. This is for real. This is a real game. It's not a play game. This is a real game. And if I can get them to understand that if you learn the rules of engagement out here in society, you'll learn how to be more successful at staying out here, then going back because it's easy to go back into the system. It's real easy. They wait for you to come back. But if you can learn the rules of engagement out here, learn how to live and live a life and you can be productive. You don't have to go back to the streets to do it. You can get a job. You can get a career. You can be somebody. Okay, just take myself. I never thought I, I never knew that I would be in the position that I'm in now job wise. I did not know that 28 years ago, but here I am, I'm in this position. Why? Because of the changes that have been made in my life. And I just want to give back to the community. So as a re entry recruiter, that's my, that's my goal is to give back. And to help people that's coming out the system be able to reenter back into society with a smooth transition because it ain't gonna be easy, but it can be smooth. It's not easy. Nothing's easy out here, but it can be smooth. And that's my goal is just to make it smooth for them. And that's like I said, I relate. To what they've been and what they're going to be going through. I like that. I think we need more people that touch people that are reentering that those people be someone that have been there. So because they are more. Relatable and I believe in a chain, like, not, you know, where a links, I should say, where 1 person does this part of you touching right away. You are at the right. I think position and, God really has you there for that. And then we, you link up with other people. That kind of pull them out even more like you've got the first hand, you know, and then as you're pulling, we have the next hand, someone that's probably been out further, been, linking to something else. So, cause it, it takes, I do believe in the old tradition, the adage of it takes a village to raise a child is, not that to say the person is a child, Everybody needs someone. Anybody in any position only got there because of someone else. They didn't their own. Um, so with them knowing that, and they. They have to be around the right people. Like you said, they have to want to change. So you obviously wanted to change and you said, humanize them. And because so many come out institutionalized, meaning that they did not make any decisions themselves. They mostly everything they were told to do this, told to do that. So when they come out, they're not able. Am I understanding this right? You were you that way you weren't able to start disciplining yourself to say, Oh, this is, I need to do this. Let me go do this. did it take a while or did you just come out doing that? Knowing what you need knowing that you need to discipline yourself rather than having somebody telling you exactly what to do. No, I had started disciplining myself, the first year I was incarcerated, I started doing certain things that I knew I needed to do. I stopped doing certain things like I wasn't a person that sit out and, um, I didn't do a lot of board games, playing cards or stuff like that. No, that I had to occupy myself with other things, reading or studying stuff like that. Right. Um, I knew like I wasn't going to stay, I wasn't going to be standing up late night. Because that's when I got in my, that my trouble happened late night. So I needed to get that out of my system that I wouldn't just be up,, in the correctional system, like on the weekends, Fridays and Saturdays, you can stay up to like midnight. No, I wasn't up to midnight. I'm back. My routine was I'm going to lay down like nine, 10 o'clock. I don't need to be out here. Uh, for lack of words, kicking it. I did down the street. That's what got me in trouble. So I disciplined myself not to do those things. I disciplined myself not to given the officers a headache, that's not what I'm there for. I'm there to get myself together. And so once I realized that as I, as I was going through the system, things actually became easier for me because it was easy for me. A man told me once, he was a guy that was dealing with the salvation. I mean, he used to come to visit me names. His first name is Tom. And he, uh, depicted me as that fish that swims upstream against the curry. And he said, Frank, anybody can swim with the curry. Anybody can do everything that everybody else is doing. He said, but I see you as an individual that you go against the grain from what everybody else is doing. And that stuck with me to say, okay, Frank. He sees something good in you because you're not doing, you're not part of the status quo. And I never really want, even growing up, I never wanted to do everything everybody else did. I wanted to be me. But once I, so once I discovered who I, who I was and who I am, it became much easier for me to go against the grain of what the status quo was. And so I believe out here in society. I had to continue to go against the grain or what everybody else will want to do the easy thing. Let me let it be hard, but for me, it's not hard that's a good point. I like that you said it's, those small things that you did right off, like, you change your routine, what you would normally do for us. Stand up later because you knew bells were the times that you got into trouble. So you knew not to be out during those times. I'm glad you pointed that out. Is that what you're trying to say? People need to do. Yes. Yes. You have to change your habits. If your habits change, you will change. that's a given. That's a given. I like that you said that because so many people they think about it when everything like this whole big, big, big steps when actually it's these little things. You need to do probably just one get used to that and then you go to the next little habit. You need to change just what they are Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1 says that we should lay aside all those things that so easily beset us. Those are the small things that you were just talking about. Those easy things that will set us, that will hold us back. We got to lay those things aside. When we do that, I can guarantee you that in the process of change, your change comes along a lot easier and it sticks to you. It sticks to you. It becomes permanent. In you, because again, the, the large thing everybody can see is those little small hidden things that we do that nobody really see. Those are the things that we have to get rid of. Thank you for pointing that out. Now, as we wrap this up, what is 1 of the main things you want the listeners to know? To do being that you've come from out of prison and served a number of years and now you're a reentry coordinator. One of the things I want to say is this is something that someone gave to me that giving up. It's not an option. It's not an option. I cannot give up what I'm trying to do in my life because that's only going to set me back. And I believe that if the audience would just take the time to learn themselves and not what somebody has placed upon them, they will become that person that they need to become. Learn yourself. It's okay to say no. It's okay to detach yourself from family or friends that may pull you down. It's okay. Sometimes it's okay to be alone in this, in this world. It's okay. Because when you're alone, you learn more about yourself and just live life. Don't exist. live life. And when you live, you begin to live life to find out that it's good. It's good. It's pleasurable. And this is what God had intended for us to do to live and not just exist. So I go back to what I said, giving up is not an option. I like that. Well, thank you so much, Frank. I really enjoyed having you on the show can we give out your information for people to contact you for family members who may be having. out pretty soon because you aren't a reentry coordinator. Please, please give my information. It would be the contact information would be F. Penninger P. E. N. I. G. A. R. at the community warehouse dot org. And I'll give him my phone number if that's okay. Sure.? 4 1 4 5 3 1 4 5 0 1. Well, that's all today, folks. Thank you for listening. Remember if you have loved ones who are incarcerated, who are about to get out, please contact Frank here in the Milwaukee area. If you're not in the Milwaukee area, you can possibly still contact him and he can, give you some pointers. Thank you so much, Frank, for coming on the show. I really enjoyed you Thank you, miss J?, for having me. You're welcome. Thank you for listening and have a week filled with blessings.