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WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — After several stints at the Rhode Island Training School and the ACI, Albert Martinez knew he had to clean up his act.

“I’ve done a total of 10 years in prison,” the Woonsocket resident said. “My first real charge doing time for was possession of narcotics. I did a year for that. I was about 18 years old.”

“When I came home, I just jumped back to the same lifestyle and ended up back in prison again,” he continued. “It was kind of a cycle.”

It wasn’t until 2008, when Martinez returned home after spending four-and-a-half years behind bars that he realized he needed to turn his life around.

“Since 2008 I’ve been on a different path,” he said. “I knew it was time to change.”

The turning point, according to Martinez, was when he looked in the mirror at the ACI.

“I looked at myself and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” he said. “I was looking into the same mirror that I looked at when I was a kid … that was the point I knew I just couldn’t go back to it.”

While Martinez’s wounds are all self-inflicted, he wasn’t about to run from his demons.

“The plan was to get out of here, get out of Woonsocket,” Martinez said. “But I didn’t do that. This is where I grew up and this is where it made more sense for me to make changes. I did a lot of negative things in the city and I felt like I wanted to turn my life around here too.”

Martinez wasn’t sure where to start. It wasn’t until he learned how to cut hair behind bars that he realized his calling.

“There were some some older guys that had been around there for a long time, they took me under their wing,” Martinez said. “They have a pretty basic barbershop there and they taught me the basics and I just locked in and taught myself.”

“It was a place where I could make the fast money I was used to, but I wasn’t doing it the same way,” he added. “I have no desire to go back to prison, so I will never do it the way I did it before.”

Martinez became a licensed barber in prison more than two decades ago. He went on to open “Verified Barbershop” on Elm Street and has since built up his own clientele.

He’s also a proud husband and loving father of five.

“I’m a different person because I decided that I needed to be a different person,” Martinez said. “I’m proud of myself. It feels great.”

When asked what he would tell those who are trying to turn their life around, Martinez’s answer was simple: “It can be done.”

“It’s just going to be hard,” he continued. “We always run from things that are hard, but I promise you that if you dig in and give as much effort to doing it right as you did to doing it wrong, you’ll see more results.”

“The easier something is to get, the less it means at the end,” he added. “The harder you have to work for something, the more it means.”

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