This is a full-circle moment for Hakim Crampton.

He’s spent more than a decade living and working in the same community he grew up in before he was imprisoned in the 1990s. And now he’ll help other men and women like him through his work on a judicial branch commission.
“I was considered an endangered species, as they used the terms back in the eighties,” Crampton says of his childhood. “And I was constantly told that I myself, my generation, weren’t going to live to see 18. We were going to be dead or in prison. And we believed it.”

Despite the odds Crampton, now 46, made it to 18. But he was charged with homicide in Milwaukee in 1991 on someone else’s false confession. He spent 15 years in prison before he was granted parole, after working to prove his innocence.

More than a decade after coming back to Michigan, he’s worked with schools across the state and built a curriculum called SLAM that helps kids stay engaged with their work through poetry and lyrics. But he never stopped advocating for people struggling to get out and stay out of prison, and adjust to normal lives.

Now he’s taking his experience with the prison system to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission as the first formerly incarcerated person to sit on a judicial branch commission. It’s a role he doesn’t take lightly.

“By having a seat at the table, it gives voice to that critical experience, that directly impacted experience that can help shape and reshape the criminal system,” Crampton says, “at a time in which everyone pretty much, both bipartisan, Democrats and Republicans realize that our system is failing so many people.”

He’ll tackle the same issues he faces to this day in the criminal justice system, like the parole system and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.