An open letter from Cory Stringfellow

I wish to publicly express my sincere and overwhelming thanks for support of my application for presidential clemency. The commutation ordered by President Clinton reduced my sentence of 188 months to 70 months time served.

Words don't express the sense of relief and exhilaration I felt at the moment I heard that wonderful news. Six years of suppressed emotion unleashed all at once was a physical shock then and still feels so now. Your support saved my life.

Having been released from prison only two weeks at this writing, and as the shock fades, the feelings of vindication and gratitude have turned to hope and an immense determination to succeed. Interestingly, the most pervasive emotion I feel is a kind of profound guilt. I know that I deserve the blessing I have received - and that my family and I have worked so hard to earn - but I cannot help wonder how many other prisoners are just as deserving, left behind in continued despair. So many hopes and dreams and so much human potential are extinguished and wasted. I mourn the loss society unknowingly incurs in this accounting of continued injustice.

I will now take it upon myself to demonstrate and explain at every public or private opportunity the fallacy and wastefulness of determinate criminal sentencing schemes that pay no heed to the circumstances surrounding the crimes, nor to ambitious attempts of confined people to rehabilitate and improve themselves. Indeed, the Federal Bureau of Prisons does not even have any authority or mechanisms in place to recognize the exceptional work of many prisoners, let alone to support their efforts or to reward them for it. Under the circumstances, even those who possess the motivation to change criminal lifestyles often find the sense of hopelessness so overwhelming that valiant personal efforts are required simply to stifle recurring despair.

I am one of the 'lucky ones' only because I am blessed with a wonderful and supportive family, something missing in most prisoners' lives. Even during my darkest days I could always rely on them to provide the cheer and hope I relied on to survive. They encouraged me to always see a bright future and to reach out for it while others faltered. They provided the means to pursue my education, which became the single-minded obsession through which I survived the dull boredom and lack of meaningful.