Right to Redemption

By Terrell, SCI Graterford

What is your name? How long have you been incarcerated?

My name is Terrell and I’ve been incarcerated for twenty-three years.

What would you like members of the community on the outside (who may be unfamiliar with this particular struggle) to know about you and your experiences in prison?

First and formost I would like people to know that I’m a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a father, and a grandfather. I laugh, and I cry, but more than who I am, I’m much, much more than my worst act.

For the past twenty-three years I’ve been struggling to be recognized for who I am as opposed to how others define me. I’ve been condemned for a lifetime for an act that lasted but a moment and I’ve been denied the ability to exercise my right to make amends. Every day of this existence I fight the thought that I will die alone behind a forty foot wall separated from the ones I love. Do I deserve my fate? Or do I deserve another chance? This question is for others to decide. All I can do is continue to be the best human being that I can be, and continue to fight the thought that I’ll grow into an old man, only to die alone behind a forty-foot wall separated from the ones I love.

This is not to say that I’ve done nothing wrong. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that I’m responsible for a lot of pain and if I had the ability to take away the pain I would. I’ve learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that my actions not only affect me, but they affect others as well. So I decided to live the remainder of my life with this forefront in my mind so that my actions reflect this fact. So now whatever I do it’s not just about me, it’s about what I can do to make others’ lives better.

What do you think it means to be fighting to abolish the Death By Incarceration (DBI) sentence?

The fight to abolish the DBI sentence is to fight against the idea that human beings can’t change and that they aren’t worth of forgiveness or redemption. It is to uphold the unique qualities of humanity: mercy, redemption, transformation, and forgiveness, against those who would say, to be human is to condemn, to judge, to hate, and never forgive.