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Defining his path
Prison sentence turned purpose for local journalistBy TERESA HAMMOND

Jagada K. Chambers has a message.

A message he intends to share with as many young ears as he can capture and provoke. A message he hopes the parents of middle and upper class students sit up and listen to.

A message broken down into one powerful quote, “Don’t use your second chance.”

It is a message not without warrant or fact. It is a message of hope. It is a message he not only lived, but has documented in his first book “Based on a True Story” – the first of a three part series.

A book he began writing long hand, while in the middle of serving a prison sentence for attempted murder. He was 23 years old at the time.

From January 2002 to September 2003 Chambers sat down in prison (Taylor Correctional Institution) and wrote this book. The author was incarcerated from January 2000 to August 2004.

At that time statistics stated 78 percent of black men between the ages of 18-35 return to prison within 36 months of release.

“I sat down and wrote all weekend, 12 different times,” Chambers said of looking to use his time in prison for something good.

Chambers was sent to prison for a crime committed while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. A crime committed during his senior of college, while in Florida for spring break. A crime he does not recall committing and was stunned by photos of what ‘he’ had done. Like many young people, he was just a carefree kid having fun during spring break. Living life without a care in the world.

“I was a senior in college,” he said. “That’s a victory right there, but I still made a bad decision that almost threw me a whole other direction.

“I knew the book would be nothing unless I stayed out of prison,” Chambers said. “God just really put on my heart; it’s got no substance unless you stay out.”

Chambers’ first book takes the reader through the days and nights of a young man living the life, falling in love and potentially ruining his life. The beauty is the reader knows the outcome. The reader knows he fares more than well and goes on to tell and teach his lesson to thousands. Chambers does not want to see another young person live this first book.

As a result of his book signings, the journalist by day has been asked to speak with students, in high school, college and at risk teens, about his journey. He shares the valuable lessons of how one bad decision not only changed his life but his family’s and countless others.

“One kid asked me what would you have been if you hadn’t gone to prison,” Chambers offered.

“I really don’t know why God never allowed me to give up on myself. He (God) wrote a play for me and now I’m seeing it come to fruition.”

Chambers admits the transition back into society after 1900-plus days behind bars, is not an easy one. He noted the love and strength of his wife Dawn, whom he met shortly before the incident, family, valuable friends and mentors as his strength.

“People want me to tell this story,” he said of the book and speaking engagements. “They truly don’t know how to warn them. It’s a great teaching tool.
“Even the Class A kid, is still prone to making a bad decision.”

Time in prison, time utilized well, have helped Chambers keep his mission in sight.

“Through it all, every step,” Chambers said of his journey, “you’ve got to walk humbly and trust God. These kids don’t have to walk that path. One bad decision can change everything. They don’t want to see where I’ve been or what I put my family through. This book can do that.

“Through this book and reaching these people, I see … I’ve got purpose.”

“Based On a True Story” is available at bookstores everywhere, or online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Google Play or Barnes and Noble.