There have been many layers to the transformational changes I’ve experienced since being incarcerated. In the beginning I was a broken person, emotionally devastated beyond words. The pain, emptiness, loss, and guilt I struggled with ran deeper than words can adequately describe. The decisions I had made caused the destruction of everything I cared so much about, taking everything from me including the life of my one month old son.

I was at my bottom, my life no longer seemed to matter to me much. What kept me going? Well, there were many amazing people in my life but in those first six months of incarceration I would say there were two primary forces that kept me moving forward: my faith and my fear. The transformational changes I experienced started that first week, sitting alone in a cell in Macomb county jail. Sitting there staring at nothing, trying to understand. I wasn’t a Christian but I believed in God. At that point I cried out to Him, I needed Him. I needed something because I couldn’t do this, couldn’t move forward on my own. He answered my call and gave me hope and strength to keep going.

I had to keep going because I feared that if I didn’t, the woman I loved, the woman I would lay my life down to save, would give up on life. The idea of living this life without her in it was more than I could bear. I couldn’t fail her. I had to be that rock she could lean on and depend on. During the first six months or so these were probably the primary forces that kept me moving forward. Christ through the Spirit gave me the faith I needed to believe in His word, the hope I needed through visions and revelation, and the strength I needed to continue forward and be there for Vicky.

After some time had passed and I had found some stability inside I started to do a lot of self-reflection and try to understand myself better. Looking back I realized how my father and grandmother had influenced me. For the most part both my good and bad qualities came from them. Understanding this was important in recognizing the ways I needed to grow and change. But the most significant transformational changes came on me while in prayer. By allowing Christ to heal all the traumatic events I experienced throughout my life I was freed from their hold over me. They were like chains holding me back, not allowing me to experience true emotional freedom. By embracing my new identity in Christ, allowing Him to heal my heart and move forward with His spirit guiding me, I was finally freed from the past. I could look forward to the future with hope, having faith in His love for me and His promises.

Things weren’t always easy. At times I struggled with depression, anxiety, and I even questioned my faith. It’s hard to stay positive and confident when the courts make it clear in their decisions they had no intention of providing any relief. I filed appeals all the way to the federal courts and was denied relief at every step. Even though the federal court conceded to the validity of my argument, I felt disappointed and discouraged. But as I said in the beginning, there are many amazing people in my life. My daughter, sisters, father, and many others helped pick me back up. Their presence gave me encouragement and helped give me the confidence to believe everything was going to be alright. I just had to be patient.

After failing to have any success in the courts, I filed my first commutation. I recently filed my second one after being denied the first time. The one question they ask when filing a commutation that really stuck out from the other questions was, “Why do you deserve a commutation?” Why do I deserve freedom? I don’t, because of my actions, because of the mistakes I made and the choices I made, my son is gone. I caused so much pain in the lives of so many people. I’ve had so many chances throughout my life to get my act together. I don’t deserve anything. I only hope for mercy, a chance to do things right. To honor my son by being the person he would want me to be.

While I do not feel I deserve freedom, I am worthy of this. The person I am is why I am worthy of freedom. The person I was was not, but I am not that person anymore. I know, you’re thinking that everyone says that. But everyone has not seen the things I’ve seen, experienced the pain and loss I’ve experienced. I’m worthy because I am a kind, caring, compassionate person that can help others who are struggling the same way I once did. I am worthy because of the positive impact I will have in my community and in the lives of my friends and family. I am worthy of freedom and I know my hopes, my dreams of freedom will become a reality. 

Recently Vicky asked me a question, how would I feel if they told me I am being released tomorrow? Wow, the feelings that fill my heart are immeasurable. After close to 18 years of incarceration I don’t know what freedom looks like. I know the idea brings feelings of joy, happiness, fear, anxiety, and more. I also know there is one constant through it all. I will have many people there helping me take it all in. I have two sisters and a daughter that I know will be there every step and a woman I love dearly, that will give me all the love and support possible. I also have the Spirit watching over me, guiding my path and the Lord’s favor, so I know it will be alright.

I’ve experienced many visions and dreams of my future. Divine revelations of the Spirit’s plan for my future. I’ve also had many of my own visions of what I could do upon my release. The thing is, when you are doing a long sentence your own personal plans and visions are all subject to change because you just don’t know what opportunities are going to be available upon your release. But with the Spirit’s guidance and revelations, along with my own personal interests, I’ve formed ideas for my future which I’m currently working towards.

A purposeful, meaningful life is a life lived serving others. That is how I will live life when I come home. I will serve people by doing what I can do to bring joy and healing into their hearts.

My vision is to build a business on one part of my grandfather’s farmland. This business would include multiple greenhouses, a nursery, and a florist shop. On the other section of land, there would be a retreat, a place where people can go that need help. People that need healing from emotional traumas, or are lost and looking for direction in their lives. This retreat would provide therapeutic programs that are built on spiritual principles and also include activities based off of the principles in horticulture therapy. Part of my dream, my vision, is that my daughter will help me build this and it will be something I can pass on to her.

However, this will take time and a lot of hard work. One thing incarceration has done is help me see what really matters. What really matters isn’t what I have, it’s what I can give others. A purposeful, meaningful life is a life lived serving others. That is how I will live life when I come home. I will serve people by doing what I can do to bring joy and healing into their hearts.

The journey I’ve been on has been a long arduous road. I’ve lost many people close to me, including my father and my grandmother. But I’ve grown and changed beyond words over the last 18 years or so. There is so much pain and suffering in the world today. Even if my efforts only help a small number of people, in comparison to the vast number of people that are hurting and lost, then whatever sacrifice I have to make for this vision to become a reality is worthwhile.

In closing, I would like to say that we are just people that made many mistakes for many reasons. We should be held accountable for these mistakes, for the pain and hardships we have caused people. But a person’s mistakes shouldn’t define them. For the people reading this, I ask you, what is the purpose of prison? Is it based on rehabilitation or retribution, maybe a combination of both? It’s my belief that the goal, the purpose of the justice system should be to both enforce the law and encourage those who violate the law to change. True change requires one to change on the inside, in the way they think and perceive the world. These are the transformations I experienced and the area in which the system has completely failed.