While serving a six-year prison sentence for robbery, Prophet Walker decided to turn his life around and focus on his education. In prison, Walker, a native of Watts, California, established a program that gave fellow inmates an opportunity to complete two-year college degrees. Walker earned his associate’s degree in prison and became one of the first graduates of the program, which has produced more than 100 others who, after release, enrolled in four-year college programs, according to a biography of Walker.
For his service, Walker was invited as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address delivered to Congress by President Barack Obama. Walker had enlisted the help of a mentor and laid out his own proposal for the Department of Corrections to reclassify young convicts who showed promise and allow them to transfer to lower-security prisons, the Los Angeles Times reported. The pilot program helped as many as 300 inmates transfer to the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco.
In addition to educational outreach, Walker co-founded Watts United Weekend, a series of weekend camp retreats for adults and at-risk youths in some of the Los Angeles metropolitan area’s most economically disadvantaged communities. The retreats are aimed at strengthening trust between law enforcement and residents of the local housing projects, the White House said.
Better community policing and the expansion of access to higher education figure prominently in the last two years of Obama’s second term. In the wake of grand jury decisions not to indict two police officers who killed unarmed black men -- one in Ferguson, Missouri, the other in Staten Island, N.Y. -- Obama announced a plan to fund body cameras for officers in police departments around the country. He also dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder to hold meetings with community leaders about establishing trust in communities where tensions are historically high among police, minorities and economically disadvantaged residents. On education, Obama recently announced a plan to fund two tuition-free years of community college for students who are enrolled full time or part time and maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average.
After his release from prison, Walker, now 27, earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount's engineering school in 2013. He has been employed as a construction engineer and continues to work with young offenders in southern California, according to the White House. Walker is also a founding member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and has worked with InsideOUT Writers, a program that helps juvenile offenders express themselves through writing.
Walker, a Democrat, ran for state assemblyman in California's 64th district last November. He lost with 36.4 percent of the vote to fellow Democrat Mike Gipson.