When Reginald Dwayne Betts was convicted of carjacking, he was 16 years old. He worked hard to improve himself after serving nearly eight years in prison, got a job, went to college, graduated from Yale Law School, and eventually became a lawyer.
“The last time my mom saw me in court, I was sentenced to nine years in prison,” Betts said during his oath-taking ceremony as a lawyer. The journey he went through before achieving his dreams wasn’t easy.
Betts was arrested with four other people at a Virginia mall when he was 16 for a handgun charge, attempted robbery, and carjacking. He has been in and out of prison since then, serving his term till his release after eight years.
Betts hasn’t been able to pinpoint why he got involved in the crime until now. While he acknowledges that he cannot undo the past and can only regret it, he wishes to assist young people in becoming better people.
Betts went on to work in a paint store after that. He continued his education by enrolling at Prince George’s Community College, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and a master’s degree from Warren Wilson College. He went on to Yale Law School, where he was one of the few ex-felons to get admitted and graduate.
He was advised that his application to practice law had been marked awaiting inquiry six months after taking the Connecticut bar test because of his previous felony convictions. While it is not illegal for convicts to practice law in Connecticut, they must nevertheless prove their “good moral character and/or fitness to practice law” through proof.
Betts received a letter of admittance to the bar after the state tribunal assessed his moral character, 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 that his experience will inspire others to realize that it is never too late to change one’s life.
“I think that his story is a remarkable story,” said former Connecticut Judge An ne 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.”