Reginald Dwayne Betts was 16-years old when he was convicted of carjacking. After serving over eight years in prison, he strived hard to improve himself, landed a job, attended college, graduated from Yale Law School, and ultimately became a lawyer.
“The last time my mom saw me in court, I was sentenced to nine years in prison,” Betts said during his oathtaking ceremony as a lawyer. The journey he went through before achieving his dreams wasn’t easy.
At the age of 16, Betts was arrested for a firearm charge, attempted robbery, and carjacking with four other people at a mall in Virginia. Since then, he went from prison to prison serving his sentence until he was released after eight years.
Until now, Betts couldn’t give an exact reason why he got involved in the crime. While he said he knew he cannot change the past and can only regret it, he aspires to help the youth to do better in life.
Betts then started working at a paint store. He continued his studies and attended Prince George’s Community College, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and received a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. Later on, he became one of the very few ex-felons who got admitted and graduated from Yale Law School.
Six months after passing the Connecticut bar exam, he was told that his application to practice law has been flagged pending investigation due to his previous felony convictions. While it is not prohibited in the state of Connecticut for felons to become attorneys, they must still have to prove their “good moral character and/or fitness to practice law” through evidence.
After the state panel reviewed his moral character, Betts finally received a letter of his acceptance to the bar and he couldn’t be happier.
“I’m happy that they made that decision,” Betts said. “I’m just grateful for the huge amount of support people gave me.”
Betts, who is also an award-winning author and poet, hopes his story serves as an inspiration to many that it’s never too late to turn your life around.
“I think that his story is a remarkable story,” said former Connecticut Judge Anne Dranginis, chairwoman of the Bar Examining Committee. “Mr. Betts demonstrated his commitment to others who may have lost their way. He has a great deal to offer, in addition to what he has already done.”