In 2002, I found cocaine. Combined with alcohol and insecurity I quickly went from a kid graduating high school to strung out and barely hanging on.
Just after my 18th birthday I committed a robbery and separate shooting. I was rightly arrested and remember feeling a huge sense of relief that someone had stopped me because I hadn't been able to stop myself.
The upper range of the sentencing guideline was 16 years. The judge sentenced me to double that, 32 years.
I was crushed. But I got back up. With the benefit of great love and support, I put my life together in prison. I mentored other men, earned a Bachelor's degree, became a journeyman electrician, wrote articles for publication, and found a way forward.
On August 16th of 2021, the governor granted a conditional pardon commuting the rest of my term of incarceration conditional upon my good behavior and payment of court costs/fines/restitution. I was released immediately.
Since being released, I have worked with other advocates of responsible change. I've started a social media campaign to raise awareness about issues in our criminal justice system, the need for trauma-informed care and the importance of second chances. I started Second Chancer Foundation last year to provide direct services and do narrative work. I spoke at SXSW and have traveled the country connecting with people working to make a difference.
I would like to see the narrative of justice moved from one of punishment to one of healing—healing for the survivor of crime, for the larger community and for the perpetrator to ensure they do not reoffend. We cannot punish away trauma, or addiction, or poverty, which are at the root of the vast majority of crimes. Until we shift the narrative and look at healing, we are perpetuating the violence we claim to be locking away.