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In September of 1997, I was arrested, charged, and convicted of 1st Degree Murder. Being sentenced to life without parole at 21 temporarily paralyzed my ability to reason. The fact that I was sentenced for a crime I did not commit almost drove me insane. But little did I know, God was working the whole time.

At 23, I was sent to the Potosi Correctional Center. I got the chance to experience what life was like for men on Death Row. Building a bond with a Death Row inmate was life-altering. However, the most challenging part of that experience was watching a friend walk out of the Housing Unit door to be executed. Over the years, I began to feel helpless and hopeless as relations with friends and family slowly faded. Having no outside communication, blocks on phones, and no experience with the environment I was sentenced to for the rest of my life, left me feeling lost and forgotten.

There were times when it was very difficult for me to maneuver around the prison politics, the mindset of hopelessness, and the broken spirits. It wasn’t until I met a fellow God-fearing friend who briefed me on a scripture in the Bible that helped me with this: Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by renewing your mind, so that you may prove by your works what that good and pleasing and perfect will of God is.” I learned that the Bible possessed many inspiring testimonies. The thing I felt God wanted me to extract from those stories:

With Patience and perseverance, all things are possible with God.

It wasn’t easy learning how to get out of my own way. The more I tried to do things my way, the fewer the results were until I let go absolutely. So, I began to pray with a sincere heart, asking God for guidance. While I was searching for meaning and purpose in my life, I applied for the I.T.C. program—a year-long prison drug and alcohol recovery program geared towards building character to become productive members of society.

After graduating, I received additional training to become a facilitator instructor and give back.  It was at that moment that I found a passion and desire to help others. I volunteered as a hospice worker, then became a Daily Living Assistant and even a barber, cutting patients’ hair. However, it seemed that the men in my past weren’t happy with me for these changes. I was mocked and laughed at by inmates and staff, even as I and other believers would hold Bible studies in the prison housing unit three days a week. Even so, I continue to trust in God and lean on him for strength. I thought of Proverbs 16:7: “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” I’ve watched God open many doors for me.

I know these blessings happen because I decided to live a different lifestyle—one that requires patience, trust, compassion, and faith even when things seem hopeless. After 27 years, I’m now 48 years old, and because I have trusted in God and his timing, I have the full support of legislators, the NAACP, and several media outlets through God. A former inmate who I thought had forgotten about me has reached out to a professor at St. Louis University, who connected me by email, stating that this former inmate believed in my innocence and that the professor wanted to use my case for a course she’s planning to teach students on how to fight free-standing actual innocence cases. That’s the power of God.

Even though I sometimes wrestle with my core beliefs concerning a draconian judicial system, I have to remind myself that God is in complete control, even when I can’t fully understand his plan. I was once told, “Antwann, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.” So, I use that as a motivation. With the power of God, life is what you make it. I now focus on the positive in all situations. For anyone unsure, lost, or maybe even confused about getting to know God, I’m here to tell you… THERE IS HOPE!

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