Inmate Released from Prison Under First Step Act Dedicates the Rest of His Life to Helping Others in Need

Matthew Charles. Credit Julie Martinelli / WPLN

One of the first prison inmates to be released under a criminal justice reform law signed by President Donald Trump has dedicated the rest of his free life to helping those in need — a calling he said God has placed on his heart.

In 1995, Matthew Charles was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine and for several gun violations in Clarksville, Tennessee. After hearing the Gospel in prison, Charles became a Christian, devoting his time to reading the Bible and helping other inmates. Over the next 21 years, he became a law clerk, led prison Bible studies, and managed to keep himself from a single disciplinary infraction.

During this time, he became “genuinely repentant of his life before encountering the Grace of Christ, not offering empty excuses about his past, but taking ownership,” as a pastor would later describe him.

In 2016, Charles was unexpectedly released from prison: “God moves miraculously. It was in 2016 when US Judge Kevin Sharp granted my reduction of sentence,” he told CBN.

Finally free, Charles created a full life for himself. He ate at his favorite restaurants, became actively involved in a local church, and started volunteering at a food pantry. But two years later, he found himself once again in prison after a court reversed the previous judge’s ruling that his sentence was “unfair.”

Still, Charles was determined to keep the bitterness at bay: “I count that as a blessing of God, even being released for that two-year period,” he said.

His case soon gained national attention, with celebrities and advocacy groups backing his cause. But in the end, it was the First Step Act that granted Charles his freedom.

Signed into law by President Trump December 21, 2018, the bill includes a provision to apply the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively, allowing for courts to shorten unduly harsh prison terms.

On January 3, 2019, Charles left prison and immediately traveled to Washington D.C. to thank some of those responsible for his release, including the First Step Act’s sponsor Rep. Doug Collins, R-GA.

“When I saw the story, as I am right now, I cry. Because this is what makes this job, after everything else, this makes it good,” Collins told Charles.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett

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