Cathy Patterson-Lee, standing from left, Cortney Belcher, Rease McClain, Phyllis Payne and Tabitha Robinson gather around Reynolds Wintersmith at the federal prison in Greenville, Ill. (Photo courtesy of Tabitha Robinson / December 19, 2013)
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- A Rockford man is given a second chance after President Obama commuted his life sentence. Reynolds Wintersmith was sentenced 20 years ago for distributing crack cocaine. It's a story you'll only see here on 23 news.
23 NEWS: What was the feeling like, getting the news, when did you get the news about being released?
REYNOLDS WINTERSMITH: "Well I found out I was being released December 20th, 2013. And the feeling is indescribable. I was excited. I was ready. and I think when I got involved in the education system, helping people get their GED, it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I was able to give all of what I knew to help somebody else."
23 NEWS: Do you think it'll ever change- the criminal justice system?
WINTERSMITH: "We need the criminal justice system no doubt about that we need the balance. What I hope is that my actions and my words will reflect what is possible if you give a person a second chance, instead of using statistics to say, well at this rate if a person gets this time, been locked up this long usually they have a higher percentage of recidivism.
So you already cast them as failures before you even get a chance. And it's people that's in society that's never been to prison that's failed more than once at things and still get an opportunity, try again."
Wintersmith is now working and living in Chicago. He's actually the first cousin of Massachusetts Governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Deval Patrick.