As he sits in the airport waiting for a flight, 22-year-old James Anderson talks about his life before, during and after incarceration with breathtaking candidness.

He runs through his teenage years spent in and around the San Fernando valley, revealing a catalogue of drug addiction, brutal physical abuse by his father, suicide attempts, being sucked “in deep” into gangs and repeated criminal activity that eventually saw him locked up.

“By the time I was 17 years old I was facing 35 to life. I had lost all hope,” he explains. “I had so much hate and anger in my heart. I saw that my brother was in prison and my friends were in prison and I thought that was the next place for me to go. I was the classic example of what everybody says: ‘Forget about him, he’s never going to change.’”

But Anderson did change. In fact, his life has shifted so much in the three years since he was released for good behavior that on the day he gave this interview, he was scheduled to visit the Oval Office to have some “personal time” with President Obama.

Anderson works as a youth ambassador for a non-profit, the Anti Recidivism Coalition (ARC), which he credits with playing a huge part in his turnaround.

ARC’s director, Scott Budnick, was until recently a Hollywood movie producer best known for the “bromance” franchise The Hangover, staring Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. But in 2013, he radically changed his career.

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