Born in Los Angeles, Kevin Bilal Chatman moved to San Jose as a child with his single mother (a nurse) and three brothers. As a teenager, he was a wrestler, and on both the football and track teams. He attended high school and junior college in San Jose before beginning work in the logistics field. In the 1980s when the economy crashed, Bilal lost his job, and when the crack epidemic hit, he was swept up in drug addiction and dealing. Ultimately, he received a 150 years-to-life sentence under California’s “Three Strikes” law for selling $200 worth of drugs to an undercover police officer. Incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, known for its unusual commitment to programming, Bilal took classes in sociology, drug addiction, parenting, anger management, humanities, and yoga, and also played on the prison's baseball team. In 2012, Californians overwhelmingly voted to amend the “Three Strikes” law and Bilal became eligible for release. After nearly 11 years, he returned to San Jose, a district with relatively high support for those reentering, and has since thrived. He is currently the Logistics Supervisor for a major organization, overseeing two campuses and 21 employees. Bilal has since married and was voted the 2015 Employee of the Year at his second job with a major American sports team.
As a member of “The Return Project,” he was recently featured on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and has been a panelist at a Capitol Hill Screening with Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore. He continues to travel the country speaking about the effects of mass incarceration on communities and individuals across America.