Christopher Havens has changed a lot since he was first incarcerated back in 2011.
For starters, he committed to taking charge of his life and never repeating the mistakes that landed him in jail. Now, he’s determined to honor his victim with everything he does — and give back to everyone around him!
After dropping out of high school and getting hooked on drugs, Christopher killed a man in a drug-related shooting and was sentenced to 25 years behind bars. There, he didn’t start out as a model inmate. In fact, his bad behavior landed him in solitary confinement for a solid year not long after he entered the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington.
During those long, boring hours in “the hole,” Christopher desperately craved ways to keep his mind occupied. He started off doing puzzles before noticing someone was handing out envelopes to other prisoners. When he learned they contained math problems, he was instantly hooked.
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“I stayed up doing this math,” he said. “It was better than the puzzles. And I just kind of kept going and never stopped.”
He had never been a scholar, but the arithmetic and algebra he taught himself captured his imagination and gave his life new purpose. Working through the logic of each problem flipped a switch in his brain, and he suddenly saw everything clearly for the first time in his life.
Not only was he certain that math was his path forward, but he also wanted to share his newfound love and knowledge with others.
“If I can experience this change from a deep study and exploration of mathematics and the sciences, then I wanted to share that,” he said. “And what better way to do it than, you know, starting a program that would allow us to interact with each other and to share this passion together?”
He began working tirelessly with prison officials to start a nonprofit called the Prison Mathematics Project. The program pairs inmates with volunteers in the mathematics community and gives them all the materials and books they need to learn.
Christopher said he hopes opening other prisoners’ minds to the incredible world of math will help rehabilitate them and keep them from going back to jail, just as it’s doing for him.
“When I do work, I dedicate it to my victim [Randen Robinson] because he is a constant reminder in my life of exactly where I should be pointing,” Christopher explained. “I need to be moving forward, and I can’t go back to that lifestyle because I’ve already failed at it.”
We never knew math could have such a transformative effect! There’s no doubt it has truly changed this man’s mindset and has the potential to do the same for countless others.
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