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The Master Plan
Cover of The Master Plan
The Master Plan
My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose
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The inspiring, instructive, and ultimately triumphant memoir of a man who used hard work and a Master Plan to turn a life sentence into a second chance.
Growing up in a tough Washington, D.C., neighborhood, Chris Wilson was so afraid for his life he wouldn't leave the house without a gun. One night, defending himself, he killed a man. At eighteen, he was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole.
But what should have been the end of his story became the beginning. Deciding to make something of his life, Chris embarked on a journey of self-improvement—reading, working out, learning languages, even starting a business. He wrote his Master Plan: a list of all he expected to accomplish or acquire. He worked his plan every day for years, and in his mid-thirties he did the impossible: he convinced a judge to reduce his sentence and became a free man. Today Chris is a successful social entrepreneur who employs returning citizens; a mentor; and a public speaker. He is the embodiment of second chances, and this is his unforgettable story.
The inspiring, instructive, and ultimately triumphant memoir of a man who used hard work and a Master Plan to turn a life sentence into a second chance.
Growing up in a tough Washington, D.C., neighborhood, Chris Wilson was so afraid for his life he wouldn't leave the house without a gun. One night, defending himself, he killed a man. At eighteen, he was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole.
But what should have been the end of his story became the beginning. Deciding to make something of his life, Chris embarked on a journey of self-improvement—reading, working out, learning languages, even starting a business. He wrote his Master Plan: a list of all he expected to accomplish or acquire. He worked his plan every day for years, and in his mid-thirties he did the impossible: he convinced a judge to reduce his sentence and became a free man. Today Chris is a successful social entrepreneur who employs returning citizens; a mentor; and a public speaker. He is the embodiment of second chances, and this is his unforgettable story.
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  • From the book

    November 6, 2006

    They came to my cell at 4:00 a.m., but I was already awake, dressed and standing by my bunk. It wasn't that I couldn't sleep. Those days, I was sleeping better than ever. It was more like my body knew: This is the moment, Chris. Ten years, four months in the making. Let's get it done.

    "You ready, Wilson?"

    "I'm ready."

    They walked me down the tier, everyone asleep at this hour, nothing but the sound of our shoes on the concrete floor, the doors buzzing as the guards pushed them open, then clanging shut as we left. They put the cuffs on to process me through the last gate, the guard whispering "Good luck, Wilson, we're rooting for you" as he locked the chain around my waist. When he stepped away, he was all business as usual.

    The transfer bus took almost an hour: ten minutes through the rolling fields of Howard County; thirty on the interstate; another fifteen through the Washington, DC, suburbs of Prince George's County to the courthouse in Upper Marlboro, where my original trial had taken place. It was still dark, so there wasn't much to see past my own reflection looking back at me through the bars across the bus window.

    In the basement of the courthouse: another set of doors and metal detectors, another set of procedures. They locked me in a holding cell with five members of the MS-13 street gang-skinny Salvadorans with tattoos on their faces, because MS-13 is no joke; the members are dedicated to the life. I wasn't chained, but I was in my prison uniform. I never wore it, because I wanted to look on the outside like the man I was inside, but it was required here. This was who the system said I was.

    The Salvadorans watched me with suspicion as I slid onto the bench. I nodded, but nobody nodded back. Eventually, they started arguing in Spanish about whether I was a snitch, put in the cell to eavesdrop and gather information. They were in for a preliminary hearing, but the state had nothing, they said, so don't say nothing, especially around this sopl—n. I spoke fluent Spanish-I spoke three languages fluently, in fact, and I was working on Mandarin-but I didn't react. I didn't want to spook them. We were in the cell for almost two hours, and for the last hour nobody said a word.

    "Inmate 265-975. Inmate Wilson. Let's go, Wilson."

    "No soy un sopl—n," I said as I left. Just so they knew.

    I rode up in the elevator with a black female bailiff. She was a grandmotherly type, her hair set, uniform pressed. She smelled nice. Nothing in prison smelled nice. "You have a good judge," she said. "She's a fair lady. What's your sentence?"

    "Life."

    "Oh," she said as her face dropped. For lifers, she knew, there was never good news. "Well, good luck."

    Judge Serrette was on her high seat, studying me as I entered. How many men like me has she seen today? I wondered. How many this week? This month? The jury box was empty, but the public benches were packed with bored people, mostly women and children, mostly black, waiting for their loved ones to be called. I searched the crowd, but nobody looked back. All these friends and family were here for other prisoners. I knew nobody was coming for me.

    The only person there for me-my pro bono lawyer, Keith Showstack-was laughing and joking with the state's attorney. I had known Keith for more than seven years. I trusted him with my life. But when I saw him laughing with the state's attorney, it threw me, the old street mistrust coming back. She's trying to keep me inside forever. Why you talking to her?

    Keith put his...

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2018
    The uplifting story of a convict who beat a life prison sentence through education and dedication.Entrepreneur Wilson was just a teenager when he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Though a passion for books buoyed his early adolescence in 1990s Washington, D.C., they remained dark days suffused with random thefts and the violent deaths of young friends. When his hardworking mother became embroiled in a severely abusive relationship with a corrupt policeman, the situation forced an angry, embittered Wilson to arm himself and plummet deeper into a life of crime. During an altercation, the author fired a series of panicked shots, killing a man; he was later convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in Maryland at age 17, hopeless and shunned by his family. "I was young; I was black; I had a record seventeen pages long," he writes. Wilson candidly shares the eye-opening details of his time in prison with a prose style that moves with directness and refreshingly unfettered honesty. Wilson seamlessly moves from his most downtrodden moments sealed away in prison to the motivational moments when he connected and shared ideas with a fellow lifer, earned his GED and college degrees, and learned multiple languages. Despite years devoted to his education and self-improvement initiatives, numerous courtroom appeals for leniency were denied until, finally, his chance at a new life was granted with a sentence reduction and parole. All of these events, both promising and discouraging, fueled Wilson's lofty "master plan" and an entrepreneurial spirit that inspired him to cultivate a socially responsible business venture, Barclay Investment Corporation, which matches unemployed Baltimore area residents with clients who have service needs. The author's passionately written memoir, infused with all the frustrations of making mistakes and seeking atonement, will give hope to readers who find themselves involved, to any degree, with the long road from incarceration to freedom.A smoothly written memoir steeped in positive reinforcement and hope for the future.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2019

    By 18, Wilson was sentenced to life in prison without parole for shooting and killing a man. This memoir, written with best-selling author Witter reveals he could have given up but didn't, pushing himself to be better, no matter his current condition. That's when what he calls the Master Plan, a checklist to remind him of his dreams and ways to realize them, came into the picture. While behind bars, Wilson started a business, earned a GED and an associate's degree. Wilson wasn't a natural student, but he was determined. To pass a qualifying exam, he took and failed one math problem 67 times, eventually passing on his 68th try. With his sentence commuted to a fixed term, he was eventually released back into society, though he quickly found that society didn't always want him to succeed. He became an entrepreneur and employed others who were formerly incarcerated. In 2016, he was invited to the White House to receive a presidential commendation, but as he was considered a security risk, it took a call from the Oval Office to approve his admittance. VERDICT Wilson's voice comes through loud and clear in this memoir that should have wide appeal.--David Keymer, Cleveland

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    January 1, 2019
    Wilson's truly inspiring memoir is also a handbook for creating a life of meaning. Wilson's Washington, D.C., youth was filled with chaos, violence, and fear. During an altercation, he panicked and killed a man with the gun he carried for protection. At 17, he was sentenced to life in prison. Instead of letting this be the end of him, Wilson decided to better himself in prison, regardless of his sentence. With the help of mentors (mostly other prisoners), he not only got his GED but learned Italian and Spanish, helped tutor other prisoners, and created his Master Plan; a road map for what he wants to achieve. He ultimately reaches his biggest goals, getting out of prison and starting a business that helps others. With coauthor Witter, Wilson engagingly tells his riveting story while also exposing corrupt justice practices and the ways that society consistently works against former convicts, especially black men. Highly recommended for fans of The Sun Does Shine (2018), by Anthony Ray Hinton, as well as anyone who loves an uplifting life story.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose
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