Two men have turned their lives around after doing a lengthy stint in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. According to CBS News, Derrick Hamilton and Shabaka Shakur became the owners of a Brooklyn-based restaurant, where they also employ felons.
The establishment, named The Brownstone, serves dishes native to Jamaica, and was a symbol of reconnecting with their community. “We knew that once we were released, that people are always going to have that stigma against you that you were in prison,” Shakur shared. “So we wanted to prove that we were assets and not liabilities, that we could go back into the community and be productive citizens.”
Shakur endured 27-and-a-half years in prison, while Hamilton carried out 30 years behind bars. During their imprisonment, which they believed came at the hands of former New York City Police Detective Louis Scarcella, they spent most of their time in the jail’s library, gathering information on how to prove their innocence. Throughout their research, they became equipped with enough knowledge that allowed them to serve as lawyers for other prisoners.
“They say two percent at the very minimum of two million people that’s in prison is innocent,” said Hamilton to the news site. “So when you look at that percentage, to me that’s too high a number to just turn your back and walk away from.” Hamilton was convicted of murder in 1991, and Shakur was charged for double homicide in 1988.
The two proprietors have an even deeper partnership. Hamilton worked on Shabaka’s wrongful conviction case, which ultimately led to his release. The pair still work on behalf of those who feel they’ve been falsely imprisoned.