Peter Dunn says, "This speaking circuit he's on, sometimes he makes money, sometimes he doesn't. That's not going to work. But in prison, he oversaw an inmate-run program designed to help guys get ahead and get their lives and attitudes back on track." That background, he adds, "will apply beautifully in a school setting."

Peter Dunn is a former chairman of the board of Don Bosco, a community center and charter school that serves a largely Spanish-speaking population. With Burton, he says, he "penciled out" an idea for a program, at a cost of $225 per student, in which Burton would work with groups of twelve kids at a time, teaching them skills such as time management, positive thinking, setting goals. His program also would stress the importance of forgiveness. He says that when they presented the idea to Don Bosco's leadership, the response was, "How soon can you start?"

"If I could mass-produce him and share his story at every high school in the country, I would," Peter Dunn says. "His ability to forgive is incredible."

Darryl Burton.
Darryl Burton.
Pearline Burton with her son Darryl.
Pearline Burton with her son Darryl.

Meanwhile, Burton's transition is ongoing. He has a grown daughter who lives in Indiana. She was seven months old when he went to prison. He wants to be a father to her now, but it's not easy to take on that role after 24 years. Through the girl's mother, he found out that she was going through hard times financially. He asked why his daughter hadn't asked him for help. "She doesn't want to dump it on you," her mother told him.

"Dump it on me?" he says. "I just went through the worst thing a person can go through. I don't have much, but what I do have is hers. I owe it to her."

At the end of the anniversary celebration at the West Side church in St. Louis, ushers hauled baskets heaped with bills from the sanctuary, all contributions for Burton. Future anniversaries will no doubt be less rich. But for now, Burton is navigating the free world like a man with God on his side.

Nadia Pflaum is a staff writer at The Pitch, the RFT's sister paper in Kansas City. To comment, e-mail [email protected].

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