After two convictions for robbery, Ponder, 52, left prison a new man in 2009, he said. He was closer to God and had a better understanding of himself and his personal failings.
"I didn't go to prison," Ponder said of his transformation behind bars. "I went to Bible college."
Now an associate minister at a Las Vegas church, Ponder is also the founder of HOPE for Prisoners, a program that helps more than 300 former inmates each year adjust to life after prison by providing financial advice, personal mentoring and connections to local employers.
Ponder's personal journey and his efforts to help former prisoners turn their lives around have earned him several trips to the White House this year.
He and other ministers met with President Donald Trump last week, in hopes that Congress and the Trump administration can strike a deal on prison and sentencing reform.
Ponder said he believes Trump supports inmate re-entry programs as much as he does.