Today I would like to introduce you to Richard Miles of Dallas, Texas. When he was a teenager, he was arrested and convicted of murder … a murder he did not commit. On August 25th, 1995, at 20 years of age, Richard was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The facts of the matter: Deandre Shay Williams and Robert Ray Johnson were shot through the open sun roof of a parked a car at a Texaco station near Bachman, Texas, on May 16, 1994. Johnson, the driver survived but Williams, sitting in the passenger seat died. An eye-witness claimed that Richard Miles was the killer.
More than a decade later, an organization called Centurion began investigating Richard’s case. Centurion, much like the Innocence Project, works to investigate cases of people who have been wrongfully convicted in order to attain an exoneration.
In Richard’s case, it turned out that the Dallas Police Department had failed to disclose two police reports containing possible exculpatory information, and the eye-witness came forth and recanted his testimony, saying that the prosecutor in the case had instructed him to lie.
And so it was that on October 12th, 2009, Richard Miles was released from prison and three years later was fully exonerated. Now, you’re wondering what makes Miles a good person, deserving of an entire post, aren’t you? Wait for it.
For two years, Miles struggled to get back on his feet. Ultimately, he found a job, a home, and today is married with a child. But that struggle was the impetus for what Miles went on to do.
“I was overwhelmed. I was 34 years old in age, but I was 19 from society standpoints. I had not dealt with the world, and I was literally scared. I didn’t know about taxes and employment. The world was totally different.”
A lot of people would be angry and bitter at having lost 15 years of their life in such a manner, then having such a hard time re-entering society. But Richard took a negative and turned it into a positive. He decided to help people coming out of prison to navigate their return to society. He founded a non-profit called Miles of Freedom that helps people transition and stay out of prison.
“I saw firsthand these points of despair for people coming home from prison. Yes, they committed a crime, but a lot of them wanted to do better, and they were just not in a space to do better.”
Miles received compensation from the state upon his exoneration in 2012, and he used a large portion of that to start Miles of Freedom. Operating in South Dallas, the nonprofit assists individuals returning home from prison by helping them obtain identification, enroll in college, and secure housing. The group also provides computer and career training, financial literacy programs and job placement.
The Miles of Freedom Lawn Care Service provides temporary employment for men and women in the program. Miles also offers a shuttle service that takes family members to see their loved ones who are incarcerated.
The stated mission of Miles of Freedom is …
To equip, empower, and employ individuals returning home from prison and provide support and assistance for families and communities impacted by Incarceration.
Simple enough but imagine what a big thing that is to someone just leaving prison with no idea how to get back on his or her feet. This year, Richard Miles is one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2019. Below is snippet from an interview between Miles and CNN’s Allie Torgan …
CNN: In addition to the support and job training programs, what else do you offer?
Miles: We take a deep dive into financial literacy, which is taught by Frost Bank. We also have a nine-lesson curriculum that deals with the soft skills, diversity and change in the workplace, sexual harassment—and all this stuff gets our participants ready for employment, which is very key. Because they’re coming from an institution that did not provide these skill sets to maintain employment.
We also have a youth program. We have high schools across the street where we go in and talk about going to prison, challenges, making the right choices. We host different community events, back to school events, where we’re able to talk with kids and family members about incarceration, staying out of incarceration and needs for education.
Good people come from all walks of life, and their good deeds may be as small as rescuing a puppy, or as big as paying off student loan debt for an entire graduating class. Some choose to help the environment, others help the poor or the disabled, others take on caring for a community or knitting sweaters for the elderly. Mr. Miles has taken on helping a set of people who most others wouldn’t bother with, most would write them off as a loss. Who knows what good some of the people Mr. Miles is helping might go on to do with their own lives because of the help they received when they most needed it? I give two thumbs up to Mr. Richard Miles! 👍👍