life sentence for first-time, teen drug offender • served 20 years in federal prison •  Pres. Obama ordered Reynolds’ freedom on Dec. 19, 2013  • works as a Restorative Justice Counselor for teens

Reynolds Wintersmith Jr.’s first strike was damning. Reynolds was just 19 years old when he was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison for selling drugs. He received a mandatory life sentence for his first offense – a nonviolent drug crime. Reynolds Wintersmith spent 20 years locked up. While incarcerated, Reynolds remained hopeful and determined. He received more than a dozen certificates for subjects from computer technology to suicide prevention, and also taught GED classes and tutored and mentored other prisoners.

Reynolds wintersmith
Photo credit: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune

President Obama commuted his sentence on December 19, 2013, calling the move “an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness”. Reynolds now works as the Restorative Justice Coordinator at CCA Academy, a Youth Connection Charter high school on Chicago’s west side. His youth counseling approach favors dialogue and understanding over punishment, and he leads talking circles with young people to interrupt conflict. Reynolds continues to be passionate about education, and in addition to his work with teens, is involved in several greater-good organizations including one that provides books for incarcerated women. Reynolds attends Malcolm X College and is on the Dean’s list for the 7th semester straight!