Posts Tagged ‘prison’

Richard Miles was a teenager when he was arrested and accused of murder. At 20, he was sentenced to 60 years behind bars.

He was an innocent man.

“I oftentimes say, ‘May 15, 1994 is the day that Richard Ray Miles, Jr. died.’ I became a number — 728716.”

Miles spent the next 15 years in a Texas prison. He was 34 when he was released in 2009.

“I was overwhelmed. I was 34 years old in age, but I was 19 from society standpoints. I had not dealt with the world, and I was literally scared,” he said. “I didn’t know about taxes and employment. The world was totally different.”

For two years, Miles struggled to get back on his feet. Ultimately, he found a job, a home, and today is married with a child.

His own struggles and seeing other formerly incarcerated individuals in the same situation were the impetus to start what is now Miles of Freedom, a nonprofit in Dallas that aims to help people transition and stay out of prison.

“I saw firsthand these points of despair for people coming home from prison. Yes, they committed a crime, but a lot of them wanted to do better, and they were just not in a space to do better,” said Miles, now 44.

The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. More than 2 million adults were imprisoned or jailed in the United States by the end of 2016, according to recent federal statistics.

And oftentimes, one arrest is enough to get caught up in the criminal justice system. One study showed that nearly half of 25,000 federal offenders were rearrested for a new crime or parole violation after their release.

Miles was fully exonerated in February 2012 and used a portion of the money he received from the state to provide comprehensive reentry services for people and families affected by incarceration.

Operating in South Dallas, the nonprofit assists individuals returning home from prison by helping them obtain identification, enroll in college and secure housing. The group also provides computer and career training, financial literacy programs and job placement.

The Miles of Freedom Lawn Care Service provides temporary employment for men and women in the program. Miles also offers a shuttle service that takes family members to see their loved ones who are incarcerated.

“There are so many people making this happen,” Miles said. “One of my prayers is always to be humble; I very rarely want to be in the picture by myself. … At the age of 19, all I had was 60 years and a bunk. And God has given me so much at the age of 44.”

CNN’s Allie Torgan spoke with Miles about his work. Below is an edited version of their conversation.

CNN: What got you through the years that you were wrongfully convicted and locked up?

Richard Miles: The first thing is my faith. Because when the judge said I was guilty, everything let me down at that point in time. I felt the system let me down, the system is supposed to protect, it’s supposed to do justice. I went to church every day of my life. When I went to prison, I sure needed something, and so it was double-time trying to take it from more of a mental idea to something that I could stand on. My mom and dad were a great factor, because they came to visit me. My mom would always tell me, “When you look out the window, don’t look at the bars, look at the sky.” It’s all about perception, you know. You might be in a situation that can’t change, but can you change in the situation? So, when they were gone and my situation didn’t change, I could change my perception within the place of incarceration. I oftentimes tell people that there is a peace in being innocent. I was able to find that peace. I wasn’t an inmate. I was an innocent man in prison, and I could not let that slip from my mind.

CNN: Why is your work focused in South Dallas?

Miles: Our goal is to provide holistic services for areas impacted by incarceration. South Dallas is one of the areas that’s targeted for most people returning home from prison. We have quite a few people that are transitioning to Dallas by way of transitional homes. Some of the challenges that people will face is that there are not a lot of jobs or employment opportunities. Through our case management services, we help individuals returning home from prison or who have been out for quite some time. We help them with anything that’s really needed for a person to be successful.

CNN: In addition to the support and job training programs, what else do you offer?

Miles: We take a deep dive into financial literacy, which is taught by Frost Bank. We also have a nine-lesson curriculum that deals with the soft skills, diversity and change in the workplace, sexual harassment—and all this stuff gets our participants ready for employment, which is very key. Because they’re coming from an institution that did not provide these skill sets to maintain employment.

We also have a youth program. We have high schools across the street where we go in and talk about going to prison, challenges, making the right choices. We host different community events, back to school events, where we’re able to talk with kids and family members about incarceration, staying out of incarceration and needs for education.

CNN: You also go back into prisons to offer encouragement.

Miles: Going back to prison to me is probably one of the best things that I’m doing right now because I feel like the people in prison are the ones that really, really need to know that it’s possible. Coming home is possible. Being successful is possible. So, when I’m able to go back in the prison and they hear that I’ve been there, that’s one thing that gives them encouragement. It totally changes their mindset and puts them in a position to really look in the mirror and check themselves, like, “If this gentleman went through this and he was innocent, I know I can at least try to set myself up for success.” I’m healed by going in, because I can walk back out and encourage. And the men are healed, because they see somebody that was in there with them coming back.

A woman who was recently released from prison in Oregon robbed a bank in Wyoming only to throw the cash up in the air outside the building and sit down to wait for police, authorities said Friday.

Investigators say 59-year-old Linda Patricia Thompson told them she wanted to go back to prison.

Thompson said she had suffered facial fractures after strangers beat her at a Cheyenne park last weekend.

She said she couldn’t get a room at a homeless shelter and decided to rob the bank Wednesday because she could no longer stay on the streets, court records say.

She faces a detention hearing Tuesday on a bank robbery charge and doesn’t have an attorney yet.

FBI Special Agent Tory Smith said in court documents that Thompson entered a US Bank branch in Cheyenne and handed a teller a cardboard note that said, “I have a gun. Give me all your money.”

The teller turned over thousands of dollars.

Outside, Thompson threw money into the air and even offered some to people passing by, Smith stated. He added that Cheyenne police Lt. Nathan Busek said he found Thompson with a large sum of money when he arrived at the bank.

“Lt. Busek asked Thompson what was going on, and Thompson replied, ‘I just robbed the bank, I want to go back to prison,'” Smith wrote.

Thompson had been serving time at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon, for a second-degree robbery conviction in Union County until her release in June, Betty Bernt, communications manager with the Oregon Department of Corrections, said Friday.

Thompson told investigators then that she didn’t want to be released and advised the Oregon state parole office that she would not do well on parole.

By Rich Cholodofsky

A Monessen man convicted of the robbery and assault of a 91-year-old Rostraver woman was sentenced Thursday to serve up to 40 years in prison. About an hour later, Greg Howard appeared in another Westmoreland County courtroom to marry his girlfriend.

Howard, 47, had nothing to say standing before Judge Rita Hathaway as she ordered that he spend at least 20 years behind bars for the October 2014 home invasion that left Frances Tekavec severely injured and her savings stolen. He was given credit for the time he has served in jail since early November.

“Thank God she is here today and didn’t die in the incident,” Hathaway said.

Howard’s silence was in sharp contrast to his demeanor during the three-day trial in July in which he served as his own lawyer. Howard gave a rambling closing argument during the trial, referencing Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and other cultural icons. It took jurors 43 minutes to convict Howard of robbery, aggravated assault and conspiracy.

During the trial, prosecutors said Howard and two other men broke into Tekavec’s home. The men used a Levin’s furniture truck as a ruse to get into the home by asking her to sign a fake delivery receipt, according to trial testimony. Witnesses said they took $13,000 and jewelry and left Tekavec lying on her bed with her ankles and wrists bound.

Tekavec identified Howard as one of her attackers. She made no comment in court on Thursday, but Hathaway read a letter she wrote about the impact of the crime.

In the letter, Tekavec said she is now confined to a wheelchair, and because of the injuries she suffered in the attack, she is in constant pain and is restricted from performing basic personal chores, such as brushing her hair.

“Certainly there are very serious effects she has suffered because of the crime committed against her,” Hathaway said.

Defense attorney Tim Dawson asked that Howard receive concurrent sentences because two other men were more responsible for the violence.

Charges are pending against co-defendants Lamont Dixon, 35, and Branddon Danilchak, 28.

Howard was allowed to wear civilian clothing in court instead of a prison jumpsuit. Deputies said Howard remained shackled during a brief wedding ceremony later in the afternoon presided over by Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr.

The ceremony was attended by five deputies and the bride’s baby, who was born last month.

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