Once Imprisoned Then Homeless, Florida Man Earns Law Degree

The Miami Times reports on Desmond Meade, who journeyed from prison, depression and homelessness to a celebrated law degree from Florida International University.

Posted: 06/02/2014 05:30 PM EDT

Ten years ago, a homeless, hungry and broke Florida man stood on railroad tracks waiting for a train to end his life. 

“The train didn’t come,” Desmond Meade, 46, told the Miami Times. “I was there for a while.”

Fast forward to this spring, when Meade stood before his family, friends and classmates at Florida International University and received his Juris Doctorate degree.

Over the past 30 years, the stepfather of five has journeyed through a military discharge, a criminal past, a prison sentence, heavy bouts of depression and years of homelessness before he entered a local drug rehabilitation facility on the night of his failed suicide attempt.

“It was like an oasis,” he recalled. “There were trees and grass, clean running water. And I was in heaven. They treat people with respect. And they loved me until I learned how to love myself.”

After participating in the Chapman Partnership, an organization that places the homeless into the workforce, and completing the drug treatment, Meade joined Miami-Dade Community College’s North Campus and graduated summa cum laude in paralegal studies in 2010. Next on his list was law school, so four months later, Meade entered FIU’s program. 

“I realized all the pain and suffering I went through all my life became worthwhile when I used it to help someone else,” the recent graduate said. “I realized that was my purpose — to help those less fortunate.”

As a convicted felon, Meade is unable to practice law, run for political office, serve as a juror or vote, according to the local disenfranchisement law. Instead of traveling to another state to try his hand at the bar exam and become an attorney, the inspirational man is determined to become an attorney in Florida one day. In the meanwhile, he continues to advocate restored rights for convicted felons and fight mass incarceration and gun violence as the director of Lifelines to Healing Campaign.  

"I’m going to stay here," he said. "I’m going to fight. What I went through to get where I am today, I have no choice but to have faith."

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 (Photo: Xcellence Glenn/The Miami Times)

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