Chasing the Dream | A plan hatched in prison. Returning citizens help returning citizens.

Last Updated by Bill Kubota on

LUCK, Inc. – A plan hatched in prison
Where returning citizens help returning citizens
February 19, 2018 - Bill Kubota, Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit

Mario Bueno, age 39, meets with a parole at diner in Roseville, a suburb north of Detroit. 

“I was in sixteen different prisons. I was kicked out of nine of them. You feel me?” Mario said, “When I got locked up I was robbing and hurting drug dealers.”

At age 16, Bueno did more than hurt one drug dealer. He killed one.

After almost two decades behind bars, he was paroled. Now he helps lead his non-profit called LUCK, Inc., which started three-and-a-half years ago.

At the diner, Bueno will help his new client find financial so he can continue college and hopefully, a job.

Mario-Bueno-with-client-at-diner,-LUCK-Inc.jpgLUCK Inc. co-founder Mario Bueno meets with a parolee looking for help after his return to freedom.Bill Kubota

Detroit-based LUCK stands for Learning Under Correct Knowledge, helping returning citizens, those newly released from prison.  It was co-founded by Bueno, Rick Speck and Camron Colts, all who served time together at the Jackson Cooper Street Correctional Facility.  The three had worked together to train themselves, then other prisoners as part of a conflict resolution program.

Speck, a three time convicted felon recruited Bueno to help lead the effort, which focused on the most violent prisoners age 17 to 25.  Driven to succeed, they took the program far beyond expectations.

Colts served six years for armed robbery. He said, “We understood the model we created on the inside would be truly beneficial on the outside.”

Getting LUCK started, their former deputy warden wrote a letter of support.  LUCK now totals eight men who are all returning citizens, which is different than many other service providers.

“You cannot lead someone from somewhere you yourself have not travelled,” Bueno said.

Bueno and the others are on-call at all times, helping returning citizens, and still, sometimes themselves as they continue to adjust to their new lives outside. They’ve landed several contracts with other service providers.

Now they’re just starting a new project with SER Metro-Detroit to work with hundreds more returning citizens, providing life coaching and job placement services.

Speck said he’s discovered he needs to do this work. “We’re not trying to save the world,” he often says, “We’re trying to save ourselves.”

The-group,-LUCK-Inc.jpgThe prison time served by the men of LUCK totals more than 250 years. Bill Kubota

See more in this segment that aired on Detroit Public Television’s MiWeek hosted by Christy McDonald, produced by One Detroit’s Bill Kubota and Will Glover. This story is part of our public media partnership with Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America. Major funding is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

For an in-depth look at the current state of the criminal justice system in Michigan, watch Pathways to Prison: A One Detroit Special Report.


One Detroit - Four million people. One story.

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