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EDITORIAL — Full circle: West seeks useful path

Damon West’s journey traveled full circle this week.

That happened when West, former state prison inmate-turned-author, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials talked about West touring all 104 facilities in the Texas system. If the plan comes to fruition, the author of “The Change Agent” and co-author of the best-selling “The Coffee Bean” will speak to inmates about his own history as a prisoner and the growth he experienced by changing his prison environment for the better. He’ll also deliver copies of his books to every prison library. He’s got some enthusiastic supporters.

West, former Thomas Jefferson High and University of North Texas quarterback, turned to a life of property crime in his 20s and early 30s after developing a drug addiction. West never blames the drugs — in his autobiographical work, “The Change Agent,” he makes clear that he was raised with every advantage in a loving home before making self-destructive life choices. By applying the simple “coffee bean” philosophy, imparted to him by an older prisoner, West turned his life around in prison.

Speaking to the Port Arthur Rotary Club on Thursday, he said there was no bleaker day than May 18, 2009, when, convicted in a string of notorious north Dallas burglaries, he was sentenced to 65 years in prison. Ten years later to the day, a paroled man working as a paralegal, a two-time author and accomplished public speaker, he married the woman he described as the love of his life.

How did West’s life come full circle? In much the same way he hopes to inspire other prisoners who need the direction and encouragement to shake off the shackles of poor choices and self-destruction.

In “The Change Agent,” an important book about self-redemption, West wrote, “I feel as though TDJC may one day view me as a partner and find ways to send me back into prisons to be useful.”

That’s what he and others from the prison system discussed — this partnership. West’s intention is to start his self-funded journey in Austin, where he entered the prison system, and end it at Stiles in Beaumont, where he served long years among hardened criminals, trying to become a better man.

Here’s the credibility he could take on his latest prison plans, should they come to fruition: He’s made more than 300 speaking engagements, including to major college football programs, was graduation speaker at Lamar University in May when he completed a master’s in criminal justice, has appeared on national religious networks. Bolstered by faith, he’s focused on helping former prisoners.

His two books are important not only for state prisoners; they might help anyone who seeks self-improvement, the right path to becoming a better human being. We wish him only well on this venture: God speed.