Locked up in 1969, James Hinton would spend nearly 50 years in prison before being released in 2015. But to meet him is to instantly recognize that his time behind bars is not what defines him. It is his relentless positivity and cheery optimism that set him apart and make him a shining example of someone who overcame adversity to create positive change.
The way Hinton tells it, most people are surprised to learn that he was in prison for so long, and would never have guessed it judging from his attitude. But when Hinton does tell people, he’s quick to mention that the future matters much more than the past.
“I tell people that you can do that much time and still be productive in society in a positive way,” Hinton says. “You don’t do almost 50 years and then just give up.”
Hinton’s new lease on life began with New Vision House of Hope, located in Baltimore, MD, which provided transitional housing for him upon his release. He stayed in two of the homes for little more than two months before he was offered a position as a house manager. Hinton says receiving the leadership role meant a great deal to him because it showed that the staff truly believed in him and the positive effect he could have on others.
“That made me feel good right there,” Hinton says. “They had to see something in me, they don’t just make anyone a house manager.”
Although he had never had issues with drugs or alcohol, Hinton still participated in New Vision House of Hope’s programming, using the group meetings to open up about the issues affecting his life. He says the discussions helped him be more honest about his feelings and understanding of other people’s perspectives.
“I got a lot out of it because I didn’t like to communicate with people too much, and now I communicate better and I understand people better,” Hinton says. “I know I’m going to benefit for it in the long run.”
From the transitional housing provided by New Vision House of Hope, Hinton now has his own apartment. He is surrounded primarily by senior citizens, and he says he will often help his neighbors with simple chores like going to the store for them. He says sometimes they will pay people for such help, but he does it for free because he can’t stand to see people being used. Such selflessness comes easy to Hinton, who says he is working to return the goodwill that New Vision House of Hope showed him during his time of need.
“When people give to you, you give back to them,” Hinton says. “It’s all about helping people.”
Hinton stays in contact with New Vision House of Hope staff and says he knows he can call on them if he ever has a need. But he says he’s living comfortably now and is happy to be leading a model life that others can aspire to. Hinton says with a positive outlook and fierce determination, anything is possible.
“Set your mind on something positive and don’t give up on it,” Hinton says. “Everything I do, I try to stay positive.”