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The odds were against Kimberly Westmoreland. Of the 35,000 people who applied to have their sentences commuted by President Obama earlier this year, only 46 were successful. Unlike presidential pardons, commutations do not imply the recipient’s innocence but rather reduce the length of the sentence. Kimberly, who was a Crossroad student briefly in 2004–2005 and again in 2013, is a nonviolent drug offender, and her sentence is now set to expire in November.

Most of the people who were granted clemency this summer were sentenced under harsh drug laws that have since been reformed. According to a statement from the White House, these men and women “would have already served their time and returned to society if they were convicted of the exact same crime today.”

Kimberly received official notice of the commutation in a letter from the president. “The power to grant pardons and clemency is one of the most profound authorities granted to the President of the United States,” he wrote. “It embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws.”

But long before Kimberly was granted legal clemency, she had already experienced mercy firsthand. After surviving several suicide attempts, she converted from Wicca to Christianity in prison. She expressed her commitment to reflecting her new life in Christ beyond prison walls in the letter of thanks she wrote to the president.

“Dear Mr. President,” she wrote, “I wanted to personally thank you for granting my application for commutation. Your gift is a blessing from God . . . I have a heightened sense of responsibility to demonstrate that I can be a contributor and a support to my family, friends and community. Moreover, I’m committed to live my life with the spirit of forgiveness in my heart.”

Kimberly also dreams of starting a nonprofit for the deaf and blind to honor her mother, who began losing her sight while Kimberly was in prison. “I have learned what unconditional love is and hope that I can keep giving it back,” she says.

In the meantime, her family members, many of whom she has not seen in twelve years, are preparing for her release, and her brother has already purchased a frame for her official letter of commutation. Kimberly is counting down the days, telling her story to anyone who will listen. “I want to let people know it’s never too late,” she says. “They can change and ask for forgiveness.”

 

LEARN MORE
– Read more about Kimberly’s commutation.
– Become a CBI Instructor and tell people in prison about the Good News of new life in Christ.

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