07/28/04 — What to do? Escapee says he is self-rehabilitated

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What to do? Escapee says he is self-rehabilitated

It’s a tough call.

Jonathan Tyrone Peace Sr. of Raleigh was convicted 25 years ago of selling a rental car to an undercover policeman.

He was 22 at the time, a high school dropout who had been orphaned at two. And he had done a bit of “doping.”

Three months into his sentence on the rental car deal, he was on work release. One day, he simply walked off and returned to his native Richmond, Va.

There he not only found a job, he “found the Lord.”

Peace earned his GED, worked delivering newspapers and other jobs and for a period served as a minister. He started a home repair business that led to ownership of some rental properties. He also started a successful janitorial service. He never tried to use an alias or get a different Social Security number.

It was while cleaning a business operated by one of his clients that Peace had a visitor. A Richmond police officer had come with a warrant, placing him under arrest as a fugitive.

He’s back in prison now and, even without additional time he might have to serve for escaping, he will not be eligible for parole until February.

Many of the people who have known Peace during the past 24 years speak highly of him and hope authorities in North Carolina will find it in their hearts to forgive his transgressions.

Peace says he was “self-rehabilitated.” He’s hoping for a pardon or commutation.

It’s a tough call for North Carolina authorities. Prisons are for punishing violators. Hopefully, but rarely successfully, they also offer some chance for rehabilitation. Prisons can even let some inmates learn trades so they might have a better chance on the outside.

What should the state do with Jonathan Tyrone Peace?

Perhaps it should seriously consider giving this man a break. He has gone straight for 24 years, proving himself as a productive, law-abiding citizen — and not costing our state the thousands of dollars a year required to feed, house and clothe a prisoner.

The down-side, of course, is whether this might encourage some others to escape. Tough call.

Published in Editorials on July 28, 2004 11:59 AM