There is a man in here that I greatly respect who asked me to help him prepare for a clemency hearing. He has been in prison for 31 years for a brutal murder he committed when he was 22 years old. During this time he has completely changed his life. He got married, started a mentorship program which I am a part of, and is the first guy to volunteer for anything that helps others. If anyone is deserving of a second chance it is him.

My friend Gabe withdrew his clemency petition this week. He received letters from his victims family in opposition to his plea for clemency. I read the letters. They were full of emotion and anger. 31 years of pent up pain were unleashed on paper. It was the first time the family was able to address my friend. Gaberial told me “Its a God-damn shame that these poor people have had to wait 31 years to tell me how I affected their life.” One of the themes of the letters was that my friend could never know what it was like to lose a parent in such a horrible way. He could never know how aweful holidays and birthdays were, or the struggle of suddenly a one parent trying their best to hold what’s left of their family together. It was tough stuff, however they were wrong. Gabe’s father was murdered almost the same way when Gabe was 10 years old. Gaberials mother did her best to raise 7 children while Gaberial started to act out and make decisions that charted the course of his tragic life. It is heart breaking all around. 

What the true shame is that there is no mechanism in order for victims and perpetrators of a crime to begin to heal. There is no process that allows a convicted criminal to send a letter to their victims family without violating a court order. The victim can write the prisoner to begin contact but that rarely happens. In Gabes case it took 31 years for the victims to hear from him, and the first thing they heard was he was trying to get out of prison. Of course they reacted in the way that they did. I would have most likely reacted in the same way.

Personally I would like to be able to send a letter to the family of the man who was killed after I put in motion a series of events that ended tragically. Not to ask for forgiveness, because there are some things that can not be forgiven, but to let the family know that there is not a day that goes by where I do not think about their son. As a matter of fact, most of the men I associate with live with the burden of their actions, not because we are in prison, but because there is a true sense of remorse. There is an underlying responsibility to the memory of our victims that guide a truly repentant convict everyday. Someday there may be a way to express this but as of now, we wait, our victims wait, and no healing is taking place. How can we think that justice is truly being served?

By Ryan Erker

Ryan Erker 390480
PO BOX 888
Monroe WA 98272

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