“Prison doesn't define any man or woman,” Dr. Lucas said. “What defines Nolan is what he allowed to lead his life after realizing the extent of his wrongdoing. Education, training, peer support, and spiritual growth led Chauvin to tangible and intangible benefits that are available to many. Now with a belief in something greater than his past, something greater than himself, and training to back it up, he is prepared to come back into the fold of society.”
Returning to the fold is not easy. Every day for Chauvin is an excursion in liberation.
Though confined, he has a hefty amount of freedom and responsibility. For his transition, the state gives Chauvin what essentially amounts to a long leash with which to operate. Every day he takes the Marta –budgeted and paid for himself - to and from work. Every night he must be back in before curfew. On Sundays, he is at church with family, just inside the allotted distance the state gives him to travel.
Chauvin said he looks forward to transition ending later this year. Dr. Unger agreed there is no doubt he is ready. As she guides his progress in the transition to a career, she said everyone involved in Chauvin’s work is on board with making sure he sees this through.
“What is rewarding is seeing them (residents) do something that they may have not otherwise done in their lives,” said Dr. Unger, whose belief in correctional education programs grew from her love to teach what she does.
“I think many people see this as something extremely positive. I get a lot of good feedback from it; it is what makes this program unique. I do not think there is anyone else doing it as we are with a veterinarian involved.”
Dr. Unger added that if the whole purpose of rehabilitation programs is to rehabilitate, then, “we have to let them rehabilitate,” she said.
On whether or not he deserves these unique opportunities, Chauvin said this:
“The issue isn’t of deserving or not deserving a second chance,” he said, from the Christian beliefs he maintains, and believing that he does not know where any person could end up. “But whether we (as individuals) can give somebody this (opportunity) and rejoice in them having a second chance.”
Chauvin’s acceptance of guilt and humility do not appear as though they are a grateful, tail-end response to returning liberties. In fact, his commitment to changing coincided with his first days on the inside.
At 18, he arrived in prison and quickly started to notice how many men had been coming in and out of prison.
“I did everything I could to try and better myself in any way that I could,” he said. “I was going to knock a good bit off of this twenty-year sentence and not be the statistic, the person that gets out with a lesser offense than what they did when they first came in (and didn’t serve it through).”
He even learned Spanish.
He connected with Hispanic men on the inside who wanted to learn English, and in return, they taught him Spanish. He says he occasionally serves as a translator for owners who come in knowing less English.
When asked, “si quería hacer la última parte de la entrevista en español,” Nolan responded, “Si, y si alguien necesita un intérprete, yo lo hago.”
No interpreter needed.
In the timeline of Nolan’s story, what followed his conviction was conversion.
He accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. Something he acknowledged as sounding like a trite refrain on rehearsed grace coming from a prisoner.
He combats this with a story of how his family, devout atheists as he was growing up, all became Christians through the testimony of his faith in action.
The key was his action. Following conversion came commitment, part of it in education, and the other toward a career. Time served, training earned, and transition all groomed Chauvin for this; it rinsed, washed and made him ready. Soon he will re-enter, brought back into the fold, awaiting society’s reaction.