Wednesday 6 September 2023

Lifeline to a Soul / The Life-Changing Perspective I Gained While Teaching Entrepreneurship to Prisoners by John K. McLaughlin


Book Details:

Book Title:  Lifeline to a Soul / The Life-Changing Perspective I Gained While Teaching Entrepreneurship to Prisoners by John K. McLaughlin
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction (18+), 234 pages
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher:  Lifeline Education Connection
Release date:   April 2023
Content RatingPG: A handful of expletives.
Book Description:

2023 PenCraft Seasonal Book Award Spring Competition.
Winner in the Non-Fiction - Autobiography genre

Lifeline to a Soul takes the reader inside the fence and chronicles the victories and challenges one man faced as a first-time teacher in the strange world of prison life.
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Author Interview
What is your greatest takeaway from your prison teaching experience?
I started teaching when I was in my mid-fifties and to be honest, I had forgotten all the foolish and irresponsible things I had done when I was young that could have easily landed me in prison.  As I got to meet some of the incarcerated men and learned what they had done to earn a prison sentence, I saw what could have been me if things had gone differently.  I wasn’t any different than them, I was just luckier.  I also learned that one prison sentence often leads to another as there are few resources in the prison system that one can use to make positive changes in their lives.  So one bad decision, or even one bad night can significantly alter your life to such a strong degree that you may not ever fully recover.

From your observation, what traits did the men you met on the inside of the prison possess that made them successful on the outside?
Great question!  I keep up with some of the guys I met and most of them are doing really well.  The one trait they all possess is a very high level of determination.  My take is that the first time someone goes to prison they have a decision to make.  Are they OK with the prison lifestyle or do they vow to never return.  I think in order to stay out of the revolving prison door, you have to decide that you will never again do anything that might lead to a prison sentence. Otherwise, it is very easy to back slide into the same lifestyle and set of decisions that got you in prison the first time.  When you get out after your first sentence, you have a felony on your record and are years behind in technology which makes it very difficult to find a legal way to support yourself, much less a family.

During your time in prison did you ever feel threatened of unsafe?
Only once and it happened in a strange way.  I had made a very good friend with one of the biggest men in the prison.  He sat in on my classes for about a year and together we worked on a number of business plans.  I was presenting a case study on the importance of writing a business plan and getting nowhere with this particular class.  Exasperated, I started asking a series of questions in a raised and perturbed voice.  Suddenly, my friend got out of his chair and starting answering my questions in an angry voice.  He stood facing me menacingly and slowly started walking to the front of the classroom, fists clenched.  Luckily, his tirade ended as quickly as it had started and he sat back down and stared angrily out the window for the rest of the class.  I learned to keep my voice inflections in check from that day forward.

What was the hardest part of your book to write about?
The first part of my book describes how my short career as a drug dealer could have and should have landed me in prison at twenty one years old. I had forgotten about that reckless kid who was playing so fast and loose with his future.  I thought it was important to tell about this part of my life to draw parallels between me and the students I would eventually teach.  Let’s face it, we all make mistakes, some on a much grander scale than others, but they all have consequences.  This period of my life was hard to write about and it was also hard to accept that all future readers would learn about my checkered past.  I’m sure I’ve got some friends and relatives who look at me differently because of it, but I felt like it was a very important part of the story.

What was your greatest day as a teacher?
When I started teaching, the prison gave me almost nothing to work with except a crooked marker board and a Dave Ramsey book.  My classes met in a prison day room for nine hours a week for eleven weeks and I struggled to fill that time with relevant material.  I was instructed that if I wanted to show videos I had to make arrangements to show them in a cramped room inside the prison chapel. This meant I would have to walk my class across the prison yard which was disruptive and I had a few students who wandered off on the way back to the day room the only time I tried it. 
About two weeks into my first class I brought a DVD player into the prison and figured out how to hook it up to a TV that was mounted on a wall of the dayroom where I taught.  This meant I could not only show DVDs but also PowerPoint presentations.  It was a great day!  I felt so much better equipped as an instructor with unlimited material at my disposal and it made the dingy dayroom start to feel like a real classroom.

What is your deepest regret?
I regret that I am not teaching inside a prison anymore. I feel like I have a pretty unique skill set based on my bad early life decisions combined with the lessons learned as a successful start-up business owner that I can use to try to provide an incarcerated person who wants to make positive life changes with instruction, encouragement, and hope for a better future.  My teaching job ended suddenly and unexpectedly and was followed by COVID which shut down all prison programs for years.  I am still teaching though.  I had the good fortune of meeting an incredible motivator who wanted to teach business skills to people who are facing obstacles.  So I teamed up with Tavares James who founded Lifeline Education Connection and am a volunteer for his organization. Together, we try to make a difference. 

Meet the Author:

John McLaughlin spent half his life bootstrapping his start-up business to an industry leader. His desire to teach what he spent his career learning led him on a remarkable journey through the gates of a minimum-security prison where he taught entrepreneurship for almost three years. John has an MBA, a teaching certificate, and a marketing management certificate from Harvard Extension University. John enjoys riding a tandem bicycle with his wonderful wife, Reba on the greenways of Charlotte, North Carolina where they live with two extremely spoiled cats, Moe and Joe. You can learn more about John’s current teaching program at:

connect to the author: website ~ goodreads ~ bookbub

Enter the Giveaway: Win a $25 Starbucks Gift Card courtesy of the author of LIFELINE TO A SOUL (two winners) (USA only) (ends Oct 2)

LIFELINE TO A SOUL Book Tour Giveaway