Thad was a juvenile for all but 45 days of his criminal activity. He will now serve life in prison unless the President of the United States approves his commutation petition. By 5 to 12 years, Thad was the youngest member of a drug-dealing conspiracy in which he served as a “peon”, and yet he was the only one to receive a life sentence. All other co-conspirators have completed their sentences. By 2016 when the ringleader is released, Thad will be the only member of the conspiracy still in prison. He is scheduled to die there.
But this is a man who has accepted responsibility and has now spent 17 years in prison for his crimes, rehabilitated to the point where the prison warden has remarked to Thad’s mother, “Your son is a good man.” Thad got his GED and continues his education in numerous ways. He has a strong network of support and even a job offer awaiting him should he be released. He is a leader in programs to develop initiatives for reentry training for his fellow inmates and works as a Reentry Clerk, helping other prisoners prepare their documents for their release and reentry to society, mentoring them, promoting non-violence, helping them navigate life in prison and away from their families, and teaching individuals to read. I cannot imagine how difficult that might be — to sit at the doorway and see glimpses of the light of release, yet know that he will never experience that release and cross that threshold himself.
What courageous selflessness Thad’s life demonstrates! We would all be better off if there were more Thads in our world. But without the President’s mercy, most of us will only know Thad through his profound influence on those fellow prisoners he bestows mercy upon every day, all the while knowing mercy in his own earthly existence is, for now, just beyond his grasp.