Ronald Evans

Before leaving office, President Barack Obama exercised his clemency power to give a second chance to a number of federal prisoners whose lives had been devastated by the so-called “war on drugs.” Ronald Evans was just a child at the time of his offense and was granted clemency by President Obama last year. Today, Ronald is a living example of why second chances are so important.

Ronald grew up an only child who struggled academically, while his mother worked long hours and struggled to make ends meet. She put the house key on a string for him to wear around his neck because she feared something bad would happen to him while she was away. He looked for love and companionship in his neighborhood, but there he only found violence and instability. When Ronald was only 11 years old, his best friend died in his arms.

As a teenager, Ronald was indicted for dealing drugs as part of a much larger criminal drug organization that stretched into his Norfolk, VA neighborhood. When he was found guilty, Ronald — who had recently become a father — could not escape the punitive wave of the “superpredator” era. A federal judge sentenced him to not one, but two life without parole sentences.

Despite an initial lack of hope, Ronald remained resilient in prison, thanks to the steadfast love of his mother and a desire to be the father figure to his son that he wished he had growing up. While incarcerated, Ronald earned his GED and several vocational and life skills certificates, including facility maintenance, forklift operation, business management, and parenting, among many others. He was a model inmate in his adult years, and he earned the respect of his peers and guards alike.

Then in 2010, a ray of hope came when the U.S. Supreme Court deemed life without parole unconstitutional for kids who were convicted of non-homicide offenses. We remember reading about Ronald’s case during our first year as an organization and being outraged that he was serving such an extreme sentence. We put Ronald in touch with the Equal Justice Initiative, which stepped in and took his case. With their tireless, first-class representation, Ronald was finally resentenced and granted a release date. Before that date arrived, President Obama granted him clemency, and Ronald was freed on August 17th, 2016.

Today, Ronald lives what he calls a “hardworking” life. He maintains two jobs with UPS and Marriott Hotels, takes care of his mother, and strives to be a better father to his son. Ronald is also a proud member of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN), in which capacity he has been able to inform the strategies of the CFSY’s efforts to end life without parole for all children.