When Judge Greg Mathis appears on national television with a gavel in his hand and fully dressed in magistrate robes, viewers would never guess that he spent much of his youth in the courtroom as well, on the other side of the bench.
Mathis grew up in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Detroit, Michigan. His mother worked several jobs to provide for her family, and although she instilled strong spiritual morals in her four children and emphasized the importance of education, their surrounding environment made it difficult for them to stay out of trouble.
Mathis was 17 years-old and incarcerated in Wayne County Jail when his mother visited and revealed that she had been diagnosed with cancer. Mathis cites this as a defining moment in his life. A judge offered him the opportunity for early probation so that he could spend time with his ailing mother, but only if he earned his GED – a high school equivalency diploma. Within six months, Mathis had earned his GED and enrolled as a freshman at Eastern Michigan University. His mother lost her battle with cancer, but his promise to her to live a different life influences Mathis to this day.
“One of the things that I learned as a judge in Detroit, is that education, or the failed education system, unfortunately, in urban America contributes to an increase in the incarceration rate,” said Judge Mathis. “There is a direct connection.”
That is a connection that Judge Mathis is hoping to reverse. Today, Judge Mathis is not only one of American television’s most recognizable faces, with a nationally syndicated reality courtroom show that is still an audience favorite after sixteen seasons, but he and his wife are also leading community advocates. The Mathis Community Center in Detroit offers a variety of outreach and education programs for the city’s youth – giving them opportunities beyond a life of crime and incarceration. He is also a vocal proponent of giving individuals who have been incarcerated a fair second chance, just as he was once given the opportunity to prove his potential. His personal story continues to be an inspiration to many people.
Mike Walter sat down with Judge Greg Mathis to discuss his life story and the importance of second chances.
Judge Greg Mathis: A view for both sides of the benchWhen Judge Greg Mathis appears on national television with a gavel in his hand and fully dressed in magistrate robes, viewers would never guess that he spent much of his youth in the courtroom as well, on the other side of the bench.
Follow Judge Mathis on Twitter: @JudgeGregMathis