#134: Jewel Thief Turned Police Officer Larry Lawton On US Prison Reform


Larry Lawton served 11 years in some of the toughest prisons in America for stealing over $18M in diamonds. But since then, he’s also become the only ex-con in US history to be sworn in as an honorary police officer! He is also the only ex-con to ever be recognized by the United States Congress for helping young people and law enforcement agencies with The Reality Check Program he founded. Larry is the author of Gangster Redemption: How America’s Most Notorious Jewel Robber Got Rich, Got Caught, and Got His Life Back on Track, a book that chronicles his life and his experiences behind bars.

In this episode, Larry gives an eye-opening account of the American penal system. He shares how his experiences in prison pushed him to work on prison reform which eventually led him to being named an honorary police officer. Larry’s smart and brutally honest approach makes for an educational and interesting episode that is bound to keep you hooked!

Show Notes

Larry introduces himself and what he is known for and the unique aspects of his life. [1:51]

Larry shares his beliefs and tells the listeners about his childhood growing up in the Bronx, NY. [4:30]

We hear about Larry’s thoughts on the law and order system in the past and what America needs today to have better relations with the police. [13:09]

Larry recalls how he got involved in the diamond business, his work for prison reform, and his experiences in prison which led him to this work. [15:47]

We hear about why he did not ‘rat’ on the people involved in his crimes after he was caught. [36:46]

Larry shares his experiences of being sentenced to prison for 12 years, how he felt getting the sentence, and how it changed all the lives involved. [41:26]

We find out how he worked his way from a life of crime to one of justice and reform work, through becoming an honorary Police Officer and helping youth change paths. [47:55]

Larry details the actions that helped him get named as an honorary police officer, and his decision to change his life after prison. [52:58]

He explains why his proudest achievement is sticking through things when they do not go right and maintaining a positive outlook for life. [1:01:58]

The interview closes with Larry discussing his love of people, communication, and learning. [1:04:57]


“I was wrong, I was a gangster, you didn’t want to meet me back in those days. I was a rough guy, and I’m not proud of that.” [3:48]

“That’s why we have a lot of problems in the United States with cops, because it’s too much of an ‘us against them’ mentality.” [13:57]

“The United States is the most incarcerated country in the world.” [15:57]

“The United States is built on money. You know, the prison systems in the United States have so much money involved.” [16:30]

“My first robbery was $150,000 in my pocket.” [26:56]

“People wonder why prison is so violent. They weren’t as violent on the street, there were only acts of violence because people start losing the little things that gave them meaning, having the love.” [42:55]

“I’m now the only person in the United States, the whole country, to be an honorary policeman sworn in by the state of Missouri… only ex -con in the United States. It was on every major news station in the United States.” [47:56]

“I support good police.” [51:00]

“You make your mistakes I’ve made every mistake you can think in business; that’s why now I know business, because I’ve made them, I’ve learned them, I’ve survived them.” [1:02:15]

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