From Lifer to Law School: How CA Con Turned Life Around


The Sacramento Bee reports that Dale McKinney’s life reads like a pitch for a Hollywood movie: Bright black Sacramento youngster grows up and becomes disillusioned with the racial inequities of the 1960s. Turns to radical politics and joins the Nation of Islam, eschewing welfare in favor of black self-sufficiency. Gets implicated in the shootings of four whites on the testimony of a shaky witness and the militant literature authorities seize in his house. Becomes a superstar inmate, setting a goal to make something of himself. Leaves prison, graduates from college, gets a tax preparer’s license and real estate license while working full time as an electrician. Goes to law school, becomes valedictorian and passes the state bar.

“You have to see yourself succeed,” McKinney, 55, said in a recent interview. “I told myself I’m not going to die in prison. If I did, my story would be the typical story – ‘He was a no-good guy and he got caught up in the prison quagmire.'” McKinney passed the bar exam in February but has one more hurdle before he can practice law in California: He must submit an application for determination of moral character, a process that can take up to a year.


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