Sweet Freedom

Ex-convict Shakoor Watson overcame a heroin addiction to build a thriving bakery

hoping to open a small bookstore and café. But Shakoor’s success with baking from home convinced her that they should stick to what worked. They traded their $10 mixer for a $500 model and converted a rundown storefront in their Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood into Shakoor’s Sweet Tooth, opening the door in March 2000. That first year, from March through December, they grossed $40,000. Last year, sales were three times that. They project 2003 sales of at least $200,000, supported in part by a growing wholesale business.

Breaking Free From the Offender Population

Shakoor Watson’s story is an inspirational one. But do stories like Watson’s represent a path to freedom for others? Dr. Paul Karsten Fauteck, the author of Going Straight: An Ex-Convict/Psychologist Tells Why and How (iUniverse.com; $23.95), answers with an emphatic “Yes!”

Going Straight is a straightforward, no-nonsense guide to relinquishing the life of an M.O.P. (Member of the Offender Population) to become a happy, respectable, and successful member of society. The book is for M.O.P.s and their parents, spouses, children, and loved ones. It is also relevant for those interested in crime, punishment, and rehabilitation. An M.O.P., according to Fauteck, is anyone who lives or aspires to a criminal lifestyle, including (but not limited to) those who have been arrested, convicted of a crime, and sent to prison. Now a respected forensic psychologist, Fauteck spent nearly a decade as an M.O.P., serving several years in federal prisons (he was granted a presidential pardon in 1992). As a result, his expertise is rooted not only in clinical study, but also in personal experience. His experiences make Going Straight a one of a kind, must-read, self-help book for those who truly want to break free.

Fauteck’s Website, www.go ing-straight.com, provides information and resources for those who want to go straight or want to help others do so. He is currently gathering materials for his next book, which will profile ex-convicts who have become productive members of society. To share your story or the story of someone you know, contact Fauteck at 7144 North Harlem No. 186; Chicago, IL, 60631; or via e-mail at pf@crim rehab.com.

Three restaurants now feature Shakoor’s cakes on their menus. The couple has also launched a catering and take-out business. Although they’ve hired a cook, Shakoor still does all of the baking himself; some of the recipes are his, and some were handed down by his mother, who worked in a bakery for 40 years. The Watsons are in the final stages of converting Shakoor’s recipe for sweet potato pound cake into a mix, which will be sold in supermarkets nationally. These successes would be enough for most, but not for Watson. He is currently trying to team with a school to develop training and mentoring programs for delinquent boys. Future plans include operating a school that would teach cooking and character building.

“You build a callous over your heart when you do negative things,” he says. “It takes just as long to wear that callous back down. You do it

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