My name is Charles Sibert Bey. In 1997, I was 18 years old when I took part in a plan to rob and murder the occupants of a drug house in the city of Detroit. My role was to be the gunman. I was a senior in high school and captain of the football team, with an above average GPA. I was on my way to college, and yet I signed up to be a murderer.

In high school, I was a jock. I was lettered (played) in three sports. Some people thought of me as a bully, while others thought I was just a tough guy. In my neighborhood, I was known as “Big Charles,” a well-dressed, nice guy that would fight when he had to. I was raised by my mother, who sold prescription drugs as a hustle.

What would make a school boy think that he could be a killer? When crack cocaine touched down in my neighborhood, some of the children I grew up with turned into full-time drug dealers, drug abusers, robbers and killers. I thought that if my childhood friends could kill, then I should be able to as well. I thought that’s what growing up looked like.

In my freshman year of high school, I befriended a guy who was a sophomore, and an up and coming basketball star. We spent so much time together over the next three years that we began to look alike. He had a mild demeanor, so I felt that it was my job to protect him. So when he told me that some guys were withholding his share of drugs and money, I foolishly agreed to be a part of his plan to get it. Years later, I learned that my low self-esteem drove me to want to be around the popular kids.

The plan was doomed from the start, but at 18 years old, my critical thinking was not there. Instead of getting what was allegedly owed to my friend, we ended up murdering a man, assaulting another, and stealing thousands of dollars from a homeowner.

Although I agreed to be “the triggerman,” no one was shot or murdered by my hands. I do not say this to minimize my involvement, nor negate my pivotal role in this horrific crime. I was found guilty of aiding and abetting in a felony murder. My other defendants have since been released from jail.

I’m forever remorseful for my participation in this crime and more importantly for a man losing his life. The pain I’ve contributed to my victims and their families and friends can’t be put into words. I prevented a man from being a father, a husband, and a productive member of society.

After sharing a portion of my story, can I now pose a question to you, the public? Am I in prison to be punished for my crimes against society or for punishment for those same said crimes? One can make the argument that I was punished once convicted. And then my punishment was a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. My co-defendant was paroled 22 years ago, but I am still in prison for aiding his crime. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been paroled. I am just wondering why I am still here.

In my 33 plus years of incarceration, I have obtained my GED. I have taken several college classes, maintained employment, taken self-help programs, facilitated self-help classes, authored a book, and have been misconduct free for multiple years.

Let the record reflect that I now believe that all crimes committed against the law abiding citizens in this country should be prosecuted and convicted. But, when do we as a society do the things to prevent crimes from happening in the first place? We can’t prevent all crimes from taking place, but what about broadening the horizons of a boy who thinks that taking a human life is a part of being mature. Or helping a girl, to see that she is meant for more than just being some guy’s robot. If the thought is the cause of it all, we have to change the way our youth thinks!