Jay is an African-American man in his fifties. He tells me he has two degrees, and is working on a third. He's articulate and intelligent. He worked on the first day to try to make me comfortable in the setting, and was worried that I was nervous. He's probably my best student, if by best I mean most focused, participates willingly and appropriately, engages with material, etc. He has a sense of authority and presence in the classroom; the other students clearly respect him.
I googled Jay's situation, and I asked his permission to share his story with you. Here's the story as he tells it, from what he's told me personally, and what can be found in the appeals cases on the web, when I did a web search on him.
Jay was in his twenties. His ex-girlfriend, and mother of his twin children, who were babies at the time, was in an abusive relationship with another man. She had a restraining order on the guy, Jay says, and the guy had threatened to kill her and her children in the past. But he was over that day, nonetheless, as was a friend of hers. The guy started getting abusive, and the friend left. After leaving, the friend ran into her boyfriend and Jay (who are related) and told them what was happening. Jay went and grabbed his shotgun, and he and his relative went over, to extricate his children from the situation or to tell the guy to leave. He entered the house or apartment, told his cousin to grab his kids, and he went into the room where the guy was, along with his ex-girlfriend and one of the children, to confront him. The guy jumped Jay, and the gun fired unintentionally (according to Jay and his ex-girlfriend), and the guy was killed. Jay didn't make a self-defense argument, but rather argued that the shooting was unintentional. The jury found it to be murder in the second degree.
Jay holds no bitterness. He thinks he shouldn't have brought his gun into the situation. His ex-girlfriend had asked him to get her a gun to protect herself, and he told her not to get a gun but to get a restraining order, which she did.
Jay has spent half his life in jail, and will be eligible for parole in a couple of years. He will carry the label of convicted murderer for life.
My job, in teaching at the prison, is to teach. It's not to try and help these guys' and their situations in any other way. Just teach.