Prison Led me to Reflect, Repent, and Reform

By · Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

My judge sentenced me to serve a 45-year prison term. That sanction at the age of 23 really woke me up. It helped me to understand that I had made some really bad choices as a younger man. I had to acknowledge my guilt. The decades that I would serve in prison gave me an opportunity to think about the values that drove my decisions as a young man, and helped me realize that if I wanted to lead a better life, I would have to make some changes.

While languishing in my prison cell, I realized the humiliation that I had caused my family and the disappointment that I had caused others in my community. Somehow, I wanted to reconcile with society. I wanted to undo the harm that I had caused by selling cocaine. The only manner I saw in which I could make a difference, I thought, was to educate myself. I wanted to develop communication skills, as I believed that by communicating, I could express my remorse and perhaps help others make better decisions than I had made as a younger man.

Those reflections led me to make a commitment. Although I could not comprehend the magnitude of a 45-year prison term, I could think about what I wanted to accomplish during my first decade of confinement. By working to educate myself, I would start the journey of becoming a positive role model. I felt fortunate to find universities that would work with me, despite my imprisonment. In 1992, Mercer University awarded me an undergraduate degree, and in 1995, Hofstra University awarded me a graduate degree. With those academic credentials, I felt as if I could speak for change and prison reform with more credibility.

During the many years that I served following my formal academic program, I thought about the steps I could take to reach others. Writing about my experiences, I hoped, would expose the consequences that followed criminal decisions. When I was making the bad decision to engage in drug trafficking, I never really considered that a criminal prosecution would be a part of my life. Many of the-people I have met in prison, even those convicted of white collar crimes, lived with similar delusions. Yet as a man who has experienced more than 21 years in prison, I now stand convinced that this system does not discriminate. Prosecutors will go after anyone who breaks the law, and those who are convicted will sacrifice much that others take for granted.

Cooperating with the prosecution was not an option that I was willing to consider, yet I should have accepted responsibility by pleading guilty to the charges against me. I knew that I had broken the law. Had I acted more responsibly, my sanction would not have been so severe. All in all, though, I am convinced that the long sentence I am serving will be a persuasive point as I work to convince others to make better decisions. Through articles I publish at, I stand qualified to show others the whole journey because I have lived it.

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