WASHINGTON (7News) — After serving 17 years in prison, Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County native Raashed Hall is turning his life around--with a new invention he designed while incarcerated.
Hall began his sentence in his early twenties, after a stray bullet fired at another person claimed the life of a little girl.
Hall pleaded guilty to the crime, and says he decided to change his life inside prison walls.
"Once I became settled down and focused, I told myself, I’m going to do everything I possibly can to better myself," Hall said.
Almost two decades later, Hall still finds it difficult to talk about his past.
However, months after getting out of prison, Hall got the chance to turn his hopes for self-betterment into reality. He was selected to become a fellow in the Georgetown Pivot Program.
"An opportunity, a great opportunity for me," Hall said. "It has been a pivot in my life."
Georgetown Pivot Program Executive Director Alyssa Lovegrove says the nine-month commitment give those returning from incarceration business and life skills, to help them add value to society. After a final 15-week internship, fellows leave the program with a certificate, which provides hands-on experience outside the classroom.
Lovegrove says the Georgetown Pivot Program usually has about 100 to 150 yearly applicants but only accepts about 20 fellows into a cohort each year.
Not only does the program teach personal financial literacy and business communication skills, Lovegrove says, it provides an open door for participants to connect with future employers or start their own businesses.
"It’s great to give them a second chance, but what do we know about them at this point," Lovegrove said. "So, this also gives the fellows the opportunity to say, this is who I am, I’m showing it.
"We’re giving them the opportunity to prove to us and to the world, that they have something to share."
Lovegrove says the program can be especially key for those returning to society after decades behind bars, who may lack basic technology skills. She also says, the population of people returning to society following incarceration can be an untapped resource.
"There are so many people who are being overlooked because of a prior conviction, a set of assumptions we’re making, almost like they’re invisible to us," Lovegrove said. "With the Pivot Program, that’s what we want to change.
"We want to open up the eyes of others in the community to see, that this is right here, it’s a resource right in our midst."
Hall--who now works as a personal trainer with around 100 clients, is the inventor behind what he calls, the "Power Push-Up." The device uses blocks and adjustable tension straps to add resistance to the traditional push-up.
Not only did Hall come up with the design while serving time--he also started the patent process behind bars. Hall says, other inmates would offer their services--like helping to draw or write. Hall used whatever materials were available to him to create his first prototype--which was made of pieces of wood and a buckle.
"I would spend hours, upon hours, upon hours, just thinking of new ways to innovate what we had," Hall said.
After five years of effort--Hall now has three working prototypes.
He says his next step comes on Monday. Hall is taking his invention to compete in the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Program--against business students from all over the university. After that, Hall hopes to take his idea into the production phase.
"I always told myself, every day, I can do this, I can do something great, I can do something positive," Hall said.