Life Is A Word With Many Different Meanings

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

When I first met Brian, he was very honest about his past history and the events that led up to his incarceration. I remember asking him, how much time do you have, because isn't that what everyone naturally wants to know when they meet someone who is incarcerated? In hindsight, it probably wasn't every polite for me to ask that question, but as we were getting to know one another and forming a friendship, I felt like it was something I needed to know. His response at the time was "I have a life sentence", and he said it so plainly that I don't believe I fully registered what that meant at the time. We simply moved on to talking about other things and somewhere in the back of my naive mind I thought Life meant 25 years or something to that effect.

In other States, New York for example, I had a friend who was sentenced 20 to Life, which meant he would serve 20 years and then go before the parole board. At that time they would decide whether or not he was eligible for release, and if not, he would be told to come back in a year or two and try again. It wasn't long before Brian explained that for him, Life meant he was sentenced to 159 years, and under the law at that time he would need to serve 1/3 of that before going before the parole board for the first time. Having begun his sentence at that age of 17 years old, he would be about 70 years old. Such a revelation felt like a punch in the stomach. After all, our lives were now intertwined in a way. Could I just walk away from someone I felt a deep kinship with simply because his life circumstances were not on par with mine? After some deep soul searching and a lot of prayer I concluded the answer was No. I am a believe that everyone you meet comes into your life for a reason and not by mere chance. What we gain from the connection is up to each of us individually to decide. I chose to stay and see where this particular connection would lead me.

After doing a bit of research I began to realize sentences of this nature were all too common for juveniles tried as adults, and not just in the State of Alaska. All across the United States people were being sentenced to Life in a variety of ways, most of which meant they would most likely die in prison.

The reality of this did not seem just to me. Knowing in my heart the human capacity for growth and change, I could not accept the idea that an entire population of people would be forever cast off from society without ever receiving an opportunity to demonstrate their earned worth.

Thus, an Advocate was born, again out of necessity.

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