Larry Lawton used to be known as one of the biggest jewel thieves in the country. In 1996, he was on the FBI’s most wanted list, and he spent 11 years in a federal prison.
But on Friday, he became an honorary police officer – the first ex-con in the U.S. to do so, according to KTVI.
Chief Mike Force swore Lawton in to the Lake St. Louis Police Department in St. Louis, Mo. Force also introduced the department to ”The Reality Check Program,”which Lawton developed when he was released from prison in 2007.
“You see too many young people coming to prisons, and the system doesn’t help them,” Lawton told Fox News in 2010. “When you get out, you have to feel like you can make a difference in this world. It’s not about money in this world. It really isn’t.”
The program ”is about helping teens and young adults make the right choices,”Lawton’s website says. “For anyone potentially heading down the wrong path, we can help. Our proven [program] will demonstrate the likely consequences of choices.”
“There’s four segments to his plan,” Force told KMOX. “I think the most effective one has to do with what you lose when you go to prison. He talks about losing your freedom and losing your reputation and your self-respect but I think the one that hits home most with people is losing your family.”
In 2012, Lawton released his book, ’Gangster Redemption,’ that further tells of how he went from a troubled kid in the Bronx to the man he is today.
Force told KMOX that Lawton’s approach to helping people is unique:
He says ‘I’m not trying to scare people because that doesn’t have a lasting effect.’ He says ‘I want them to honestly know what prison life is like and what they’re going to give up when they go to prison.
Both Lawton’s and Force’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In September, KDSK reports, both will be recognized for their collaboration on the floor of Congress in Washington, D.C.