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Floyd Hampton refined his leather-making skills during his long prison sentence

Floyd Hampton refined his leather-making skills during his long prison sentence
Floyd Hampton refined his leather-making skills during his long prison sentence

The loud clatter of a hammer hitting a dining table fills the air as you enter the home of 60-year-old Floyd Hampton in west Detroit.

Hampton, who spent 25 years behind bars, now makes custom leather products at home. On a recent summer day, a visitor watched Floyd Hampton carefully punching hole after hole into a leather strap.

Hampton was incarcerated for armed robbery in his late teens and served 25 years of a 30- to 100-year sentence. While at the former Riverside Correctional Facility in Ionia, Hampton honed his leather-making skills as part of a rehabilitation program offered there.

Amidst the challenging prison life, mastering the art of handmade leather goods became Hampton’s refuge.

“Learning how to make leather goods helped me overcome many obstacles during my incarceration,” said Hampton. “Being able to create various leather goods gave me a mental freedom from the prison environment I had spent so long in. I was able to escape the rigors of prison by focusing on my creative mind and putting my energy into the work I was creating.”

Hampton said he learned a lot during his incarceration.

“The young people out there and everyone else who is not making good choices and not thinking about where their life will be in five years need to understand that every decision they make will have consequences that they and their family will have to live with for the rest of their lives.”

In addition to leather belts, Hampton has learned to make dog collars, harnesses, leashes, handbags, clutches, briefcases, wallets and gun holsters. He recently made two custom dog collars for a friend’s Boerboel, a large mastiff-like breed.

“Other inmates often told me during my incarceration, ‘Hey Hamp, if you don’t start a business making leather goods after you get out, that’s a crime in itself.’ That motivated me to continue pursuing what I had learned in prison.”

The leather manufacturing program at Riverside Correctional Facility ended shortly before Hampton’s release in 2009.

Through the program, he found a way to adjust to life outside of prison.

But Hampton had to put his leather goods and clothing business, Mony Line, on pause during his two-year battle with prostate cancer. The disease took a heavy toll on him.

Now he is focused on the business and being a positive role model for his 10-year-old son, Floyd D. Hampton II.

He has been cancer-free for six years now.

“While I was recovering from cancer, the hope of being able to work on leather products and restart my business was a reason for me to work hard on my physical recovery and rehabilitation so I could return to work,” Hampton said. “I hope people understand that everyone has setbacks in life. You just have to have the courage to face them and overcome them.”

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