His Name is Arnold King
By Marva King and Sven Bursell
His name is Arnold King. Should you care who
he is, or even that he exists? He is not a celebrity, though
his road of destiny, where early accidents of fortune, and misfortune,
predetermined him for all he was, is now, and can be in the future.
On this road, he lost his soul but found it again in the dark depths
of despair and chaos.
His dream is to help youth at risk but his hands
are tied. His dream is to help keep our streets safe to walk on,
but his legs are shackled in irons. His dream is full of hope that
comes with the rehabilitation of his soul. His hope he sustains,
despite the bars that enclose him -- for without this hope there
is nothing but his pain. Many of us hope that the injustice
of his continued incarceration can be righted so that the human being
that is Arnold King now can follow his destiny to help ease the pain
and troubles of others.
In the words of City Councilman Felix Arroyo, “Rehabilitation
is an immense and difficult process. For all of us even to
change a habit takes so much focus and commitment from ourselves … and
to change …the way you are and to be able to transform yourself
is an amazing process. I look with amazement at Mr. King, who
showed us (through his own behavioral process)…that, yes,
this is possible.” Mr. King has outlined these life changes
in legal filings of petitions for commutation of his life sentence
from December 1987 – April 2007, through his published writings,
through his 30 successfully completed furloughs, and through his
professional job opportunities. He has lived his life in honor
of the one he took by creating the youth development programs of “Through
Barbed Wire” and “Prison Voices” that consults
with schools and agencies on youth issues and crime, that counsels
students and parents, and that trains prison inmates to become better
human beings upon returning to the larger society.
Councilman Arroyo reminds us “although we
have societal structures to take away those who are unable to follow
the rules of living with each other …that we as a society
also have processes by which if you are able to change, you will
be rewarded. That society is there not just to punish, but to rehabilitate.”
Mr. King chose to rehabilitate himself
and live in honor of the life he took. He walks a daily path
filled with hope, justice, contribution, and redemption. Mr.
King longs for release from prison to become a contributing member
of his community.
City Councilman Chuck Turner advises that in his
district, and particularly with his younger constituency, “there
is the double issue of taking responsibility for your behavior despite
your life circumstances….
and combined with the struggle to believe in yourself and to believe
that you can go beyond what you see around you in your life is just ….difficult.“ As
a master teacher professionally trained through the Boston University
School Prison Education Project, Mr. King counsels young men and
women towards making the correct choices in life so they do not end
up like him. Boston University Professor Paula Verdet believes
Mr. King exemplifies the concept of true rehabilitation as “he
helps other inmates face their past, their present situation, and
Former juvenile delinquent imprisoned for murder,
now a Massachusetts correctional officer, Hasan Smith informs, “As
I went through the Lifer’s Program for juvenile delinquents
with serious offenses, my mentor Mr. King advised me to think about
how the victim’s
family feels….during a time I didn’t want to think about
anything but being mad at the world.” By talking and
working with Mr. King, Mr. Smith’s life was changed and transformed. This
is how Mr. King sees his future – influencing young men like
Mr. Smith to turn their lives around and see the benefits of living
in a just society.
Salim Elijah and Joe Lewis, two young teenagers going
through the City School program of Dorchester, MA, connected with
Mr. King through his youth development programs and remarks on Mr.
on them. Mr. Elijah tells us “Mr. King is able to talk
frankly with him and his peers about life ….and how important
it is for teens to have the support of someone like Mr. King for
gaining a perspective on life situations which they should not be
involved in.” Mr. Lewis advises, “Mr. King has
a tremendous effect on students from juvenile day reporting centers
and that Mr. King would be able to contribute more if he were accessible
to the youth within the community.” Councilman Turner
wants Mr. King actively working in his community with youth just
The City School program’s Executive Director
Miriam Messenger agrees with Councilman Turner and considers Mr.
King a colleague and educator for such youth within her school program.
She proclaims, “Mr. King is a very gentle and truthful voice
and even though he has spent thirty-six years inside of prison, he
finds a way to relate to young people so that he may help them.” Ms.
Messenger believes Mr. King has transformed and he has shown the
power to help transform other people to work for the good of society.
Through these years, Mr. King has shown over
time that he is a changed man, that he is no longer a threat to society,
and that he takes full responsibility for the life he can never bring
back while offering his life’s work in atonement as he strives
towards continuous redemption. Mr. King deserves a second chance
to confirm that he is worthy to
walk, live, work, and worship back in his community.
read and sign the petition to support Arnie King’s request
for commutation of sentence. <