(WSVN) - If you’re trying to teach kids to stay out of trouble, an ex-convict might not come to mind as the best resource. But one jewel thief, who spent 11 years in federal prison, is giving kids the ultimate reality check. 7’s Alex de Armas has our special assignment report, “Pearls of Wisdom.”
Larry Lawton is no saint. In fact, he was an infamous jewel thief.
Larry Lawton: “Diamonds, gems, watches. Between $15 and $18 million.”
Lawton spent almost 11 years in federal prison. Since getting out in 2007, this ex-con has been keeping teens and young adults from making costly mistakes, like he did.
Lawton’s “Reality Check Program” video: (closes jail door) “I don’t want you there. My name’s Larry Lawton.”
Lawton came up with “The Reality Check Program.” It’s a video designed to drive home a harsh truth: A life of crime can lead to a life locked up.
Lawton’s “Reality Check Program” video: “Prison is about brutality, murders, rapes and survival.”
He says, during his time in prison, he survived abuse and isolation.
Larry Lawton: “I was taken out of the hole once a month and beaten and strapped down naked, and beaten and pissed on by guards. And boy, I get chills when I think about that.”
This past summer, Lawton spoke to future police officers and at-risk youth at Parkway Middle School in Lauderhill.
Bryan wants to be a Hollywood Police Officer, and he says Lawton’s talks can help kids get on the right track.
Bryan: “I think how he tells the stories, and how he gives so much detail. I think it makes them really think twice about what they’re doing with their life.”
And that thinking, say police, is a start.
Lauderhill Police Lt. Greg Solowsky: “There was a sense of shock value with some of the kids. But again, with the youth that we have today, sometimes you need to shake them a little bit in order to get their attention.”
You may be surprised to learn this ex-con is an honorary police officer himself, in the Missouri city of Lake Saint Louis.
Congressman: “Thank you, Mr. Speaker…”
And in 2013, a congressman praised Lawton’s work on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman: “I want to draw attention to a positive program that helps young people make better choices.”
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department has teamed up with The Reality Check Program to get the video in the hands of students.
It has also been used in the Brevard County court system as part of plea deals for certain misdemeanor and juvenile offenses.
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