Robert Richardson of Portland, Or., knows what it’s like to hold up a bar at gunpoint, reports the Oregonian. He’s panicked as a police helicopter hovered overhead and felt the fear of staring down the barrel of an officer’s firearm. He understands how a young man can bounce in and out of prison, and how difficult it is to stop peddling drugs and summon the strength to pursue a better path in life.
Richardson now tries to get hard-core gang members and violent criminals to do the same. “Don’t get hijacked with your past,” Richardson advises gang offenders or felons on parole. “It won’t allow you to get to your future.” Richardson, 49, recognizes that his past lends him credibility on the streets. Sharing his history helps open the door for others to talk about theirs. Richardson works morning and night, often putting in 18-hour days. He serves as the Sunday school superintendent of a church; motivates gang members on the streets or in prison to leave the thug lifestyle; rolls out to crime scenes in the middle of the night to defuse volatile situations as a chaplain with the Portland police crisis response team; counsels parents whose children are killed in shootings, then officiates at the funerals. He relaxes by running midnight basketball on Fridays.