Now and then a convicted prisoner uses their time wisely to prove they are better than what they are perceived to be. They prove the type of person they really are outside of the crime they committed by doing as much good as possible. Such was the case with Jon Ponder who taught us all how prison reform can work if and when someone allows it to.
While standing beside President Trump and the FBI agent, Richard Beasley, who in 2004 had arrested him for bank robbery, Ponder, tears in his eyes, said that he is filled with hope as he expressed his gratitude for being pardoned during the RNC.
Fifty-four-year-old Ponder said, “My hope for America is that formerly incarcerated people will be afforded the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that we live in a nation of second chances.”
In a statement from the White House, it was said that Ponder is, “a source of inspiration for former inmates who desire to rebuild their lives when they leave prison.”
Trump praised Ponder during a pardoning ceremony by saying, “You’ve done incredible work. Every place in this country is proud of you.” And indeed, Ponder has done incredible work.
Ponder was released from prison in 2009 but still had to bear the burden of his criminal record. Shortly thereafter, in 2010, he founded Hope for Prisoners.
Early in 2020 Ponder had been pardoned at the state level but this did not erase his crime from the national database. During that pardon, Judge Lidia Stiglich said of him, “Who you are is who you are today. And I think you’ve distinguished yourself both in your own rehabilitation and your service to your community in trying to make that right.”
Hope for Prisoners provides an 18-month program for released prisoners which includes job training, ongoing counseling, and mentors to guide them every step of the way towards total rehabilitation.
It was 2018 when Ponder and Trump first met one another during a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House. Earlier this year the two met once again when Trump spoke at a Hope for Prisoners graduation event.
During the event President Trump alluded to the fact that he was considering a pardon for Ponder after realizing how much time and effort he had, and still was, putting into his organization.
The following statements are listed on Hope for Prisoners website; “Hope for Prisoners is committed to helping men, women and young adults successfully reenter the workforce, their families and our community. Prisoners behind bars, victims of crime, families torn apart by incarceration—all are loved by God and worthy of our attention.”
“Neighborhoods can be made safer and healthier through a restorative approach to prisoners and those affected by crime. Men and women behind bars are also sons and daughters, fathers, and mothers. What is being done to repair these relationships?”
As a testimony to the success of the program, one of the graduates made this statement. “Prior to prison, I was making choices because of other people, not for myself. One day I woke up and I am here and I am changing my life. It’s giving me hope, a different perspective on life, a positive outlook.”
So is it any wonder that President Trump made the right decision in releasing Jon Ponder from the criminal record that was still hanging over his head? As one would expect, Trump received some criticism from Democrats for what they considered using his presidential pardon powers as a ploy during the convention, when he could have done this at any other time he chose to.
But we disagree. Trump chose the perfect moment. It wasn’t just about pardoning someone who was well-deserving, it was about showing the rest of America that there is always hope, no matter the bad choices someone may have made in the past.
America doesn’t give up on its citizens. Especially once they have paid their debt to society, and as a result, re-image their life in the respectable manner of Jon Ponder. We should all take a lesson. Bravo President Trump.