My name is Roger. I have been a prisoner in MDOC for more than 35 years. I was convicted of felony murder as an aider and abetter when I was 18 years old. I am just as responsible for taking human life as the person who landed the fatal blows. I planned a robbery and the worst possible result happened: a human being lost his life. He was just trying to close the store that evening, and go home to his wife and kids. Because of this, the children grew up without their cornerstones. So many dreams came to an end that tragic night. Not a single day goes by where I don’t say all of their names and a silent apology. I know they will never forgive me for what I have taken from them, nor would I expect them to. I can only move forward and never ever forget the past.
When I came to prison as an 18-year-old kid, I had to grow up fast. I did a lot of listening and very little talking. I had to start being a responsible adult and make life decisions to better set myself up for success. At this point, I had to decide if I wanted to spend time being constructive or self destructive. I decided to make myself a better person. I volunteered to work in the reception center as a porter and then a clerk. I took community college classes, and earned 44 credit hours towards a degree. When Pell grants were eliminated for prisoners, I started taking vocational classes instead. I learned about drafting and AutoCAd. I then earned my state certification as a master mechanic. I tutored the class for a while then became a clerk again. I volunteered in a garden program that donated its produce to the community. I became a master gardener through Michigan State University. I took math and optical theory in hopes I could make prescription eyeglasses, but the program ended. I then became a clerk for two factories, and it was like I had a job out in the real world. I was doing things like processing work orders, purchase orders, and doing inventory. In the evenings I started another donation garden, and the produce went to local churches. During all this time I had transferred prisons often and was transferred again. They did not have any programs so I transferred to Lakeland where I stayed for 10 years. I have taken more college classes to earn my degree, and I have been a dog handler to train service dogs. I have helped to train 47 dogs so far over 8 years. I also took self help and rehabilitation classes. I continue to move forward and take advantage of all the programs I can. I read a lot in my down time. I learned to crochet and donated several projects to hospitals and fire departments in remembrance of John.
In January 2010, I was granted a public hearing by a majority of the parole board. This was a huge wake up call and helped me realize how much I had taken from John, his family, and the community. What was scheduled to be a two hour hearing became a four hour nightmare. After the hearing, I went back to my room and broke down in emotions I didn’t even know I had. I felt sick to my stomach and felt as though I was the lowest form of scum on earth. Before I ever heard a decision from the parole board, I read an article in the lansing state journal by the spokesperson of the governor stating: no matter what the parole board recommends, the governor will not sign a commutation in my case. This was the seal on my coffin.
I know there is a high probability that I will die in prison. I have accepted this fact. Life means life in Michigan. If a person sentenced to life is released, it is a gracious gift given by the parole board or governor. It is never to be expected. There are a lot of good people in prison, just as there are a lot of bad people. I can only hope and pray that one day my efforts to rehabilitate myself get recognized. I am given a second chance to be a productive member of society.