This week President Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit a federal prison, and called for reforms in the criminal justice system that would help people who have served time to turn their lives around.
In this StoryCorps classic from 2011, we hear from someone who did just that.
In 1993, Oshea Israel was a teenager in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One night at a party Oshea got into a fight, which ended when he shot and killed Laramiun Byrd.
Now 38, Oshea has finished serving his prison sentence for second-degree murder.
At StoryCorps he spoke with Mary Johnson-Roy, the mother of the man he killed.
Mary Johnson-Roy founded From Death to Life, an organization that supports mothers who have lost children to homicide, and encourages forgiveness between families of murderers and victims.
Music Info: "Water From The Same Source" by Rachel's from the album "Systems / layer".
Click here for the transcript.
Oshea Israel: And he became human to me. You know, when I met you it was like, ok, this guy, he’s real. And then, when it was time to go, you broke down and started shedding tears and, the initial thing to do was just try and hold you up as best I can--just hug you like I would my own mother.
MJ: After you left the room, I began to say: "I just hugged the man that murdered my son." And I instantly knew that all that anger and the animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you--I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you.
OI: As far as receiving forgiveness from you--sometimes I still don't know how to take it because I haven't totally forgiven myself yet. It’s something that I’m learning from you.
MJ: I treat you as I would treat my son. And our relationship is beyond belief. We live next door to one another.
OI: Yeah. So you can see what I'm doing--you know first hand. We actually bump into each other all the time leaving in and out of the house. And, you know, our conversations, they come from "Boy, how come you ain't called over here to check on me in a couple of days? You ain't even asked me if I need my garbage to go out!"
OI: I find those things funny because it's a relationship with a mother for real.
MJ: Well, my natural son is no longer here. I didn't see him graduate . Now you're going to college. I'll have the opportunity to see you graduate. I didn't see him getting married. Hopefully one day, I'll be able to experience that with you.
OI: Just to hear you say those things and to be in my life in the manner that which [sic] you are is my motivation. It motivates me to make sure that I stay on the right path. You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it despite how much pain I caused you--it's amazing.
MJ: I know it’s not an easy thing, you know, to be able to share our story together. So I admire that you can do this.
OI: I love you, lady.
MJ: I love you too, son.