Episode 08: It’s Never Too Late! Transformation & Finding Purpose After 17 Years in Prison with Carlos Vasquez

Peter “Chappy” Meyerhoff sits down with Carlos Vasquez. The two met not long after Carlos was released from prison six months prior to this conversation.

As a child, Carlos dreamed of becoming a baseball player, and he had a seemingly picture-perfect Catholic upbringing. Everything changed around the time he turned 13 when he discovered that his father had a secret family. Almost without warning, his dad abandoned his real family to be with them, forcing Carlos’s mom to take on three jobs to support her children. Not long after that, his 16-year-old sister became pregnant, and Carlos himself hit the streets.

He was quickly initiated into the gang life and committed his first crime—armed robbery—at the age of 15 and, at 18, he was faced with a 20-year sentence with two strikes. Now suicidal and thinking he would never leave that place, Carlos went to prison with the intention of “being the craziest person that anybody has ever seen.”

13 years into his sentence, however, his life took a dramatic turn. He recalls being in the hole, totally alone with his own thoughts, and asking himself the question, “I’ve made it this far and I’m still alive. Why am I not dead? Maybe I need to do it.”

He mulled over that thought for the next few days until he and a chaplain crossed paths. He offered Carlos a Bible, which he proceeded to read cover-to-cover. Around the same time, he received a letter from a friend who had just received a 110-year sentence. That friend was 15 years old, and it was partly due to Carlos’s influence that he went down a similarly dark path.

That was the final straw for Carlos. He committed—to God and to himself—that he was going to change. He decided to take back control of his life. At the same time, he believes that God led him to become a role model for men and boys who are currently going through the same dark phase he did.

In Carlos’s own words: “Something told me: ‘You’re not supposed to just walk away. You’re supposed to put yourself back in that place and help change the culture. Use your influence. Use your leadership and communication skills to help these guys find the inspiration to change.’”

Topics Discussed:

  • [01:41] Carlos’s story
  • [05:29] How Carlos ended up in prison for the first time
  • [07:32] Carlos’s mindset going into prison
  • [11:22] Surviving prison life for 20 years
  • [13:04] What led Carlos to give up the gang life
  • [17:17] Carlos’s challenging path forward as a new man
  • [26:17] How Carlos was feeling as he was released and his first days out of prison
  • [31:29] About Carlos’s work with the Prep Foundation
  • [36:31] Carlos’s message to his younger self
  • [42:22] What’s next for Carlos?
  • [46:26] Speaking to former fellow inmates 100 days after Carlos’s release
  • [48:51] Carlos’s final message of hope

Connect with Carlos Vasquez:

Connect with Peter Meyerhoff:

Key Quotes:

  • I knew that, once I went to prison, the person that I had to be to survive in prison [would never give me a chance] to get out of there. So, I said, “You know what? If Imma go in there and be in there for the rest of my life, then I’m just going to die with this reputation as being one of the hardest people from the gang that I was from. ~Carlos
  • There were multiple times where I should have been struck out. The one thing that kept from getting struck out was all mindset. It’s all the person that I was. I was always a mastermind. ~Carlos
  • Something told me: “You’re not supposed to just walk away. You’re supposed to put yourself back in that place and help change the culture. Use your influence. Use your leadership and communication skills to help these guys find the inspiration to change.” ~Carlos

Leave a comment