In 1986, I killed my grandfather, something I have thought about each day, every day for the past 32 years and six months.

I was sentenced to 60 years. As you might expect, much has happened to me over the past three decades. It is almost impossible for me to remember who I was in 1986 when I committed the terrible crime because I am simply a very different person today. I was struggling with many demons in those days. I make no excuses for what I did because it was so terribly, horribly wrong. There is no excuse for it, much less any true explanation for it.

All I can do now is to remember what I did so that I will never forget it and try to make myself a better person.

I am hopeful to end my journey through the correctional system in the near future. I also hope others may gain from my insight and knowledge as a result of my own transformation and reformation in the world of the prison system.

Like most people, I had a difficult time adjusting to prison life. I fought my conviction and I initially refused to accept my guilt and responsibility. When I was at or near my low point, a Catholic Priest slowly became my spiritual advisor. I cannot say that I had an overnight conversion; however, at some point, I came to accept my guilt and my responsibility to try and become a better person.

Over the past three decades, I have tried to do just that. I have actively pursued every possible opportunity to help people within the prison since I arrived so many years ago. I have served as a Certified Literacy Tutor, and I have worked with many state lawmakers throughout the years in efforts to bring about positive change in the prison population and the treatment of the mentally ill.

Separate from all of this, I have also participated in just about every substantial program available to make myself a better person in an unrelenting effort to change the person I was when I committed the crime back in 1986. Sharing my knowledge of the correctional system in recent years through Op-Eds published in the Portland Press Herald has enabled me to educate the public, the Legislature and the legal community as well.

I believe that my fair, balanced and informative views have been fully received and used to better understand the correctional environment. In 2016, when the Department of Corrections was considering rules that would limit a prisoner’s ability to be published, I worked with attorneys Richard Olsen, Zach Heiden of the ACLU and the late Peter DeTroy to ensure the policy was changed to protect the important right of prisoners to be published.

I believe that my efforts at self-improvement as well as my wide-ranging and powerful connections to people outside of prison will help to demonstrate that I am someone who will be a value-driven asset in society. Having been blessed with the incredible support of so many people, both within the prison community and those in society, I have not only developed a conscience, but a moral compass that will propel me into the future with clear direction.

Locking up people is the prevailing attitude when the purpose of incarceration should be to keep the offender out of circulation until he or she can be rehabilitated.

Just as people come to prison because they fail to live by society’s rules, once people are ready to become an asset rather than a liability to the community, they should be given a chance to demonstrate the change and to speak about their desire to live a productive life.

Developing a rational philosophy of deciding who can come to prison and change and who cannot should become the priority of criminal justice reform.

 

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