I Was Sentenced to Death

I was sentenced to death by lethal injection on February 5, 1992, after being convicted of a triple homicide. The sentence was a result of a terrible moment in my young adult life. I was confronted by the people who killed my younger brother and, in an altercation that lasted only a few seconds, I committed a crime that I will regret for the rest of my life.

The first morning I woke up in prison, I realized that I could fight my death sentence by successfully fighting my premeditated murder conviction. A correctional officer asked me how I would like to spend the daily allowance of 90 minutes outside of my prison cell. I requested to go to the law library. With access to the 6’ x 9’ prison cell with a few old, dusty law books, I committed right then and there to study law and eventually became co-councel on my own case 4 years later, after the Illinois Supreme Court had reversed my conviction, and vacated my death sentence. I would no longer face the death sentence in Illinois’ again.

While incarcerated, I embraced Islam, a spiritual practice that has sustained me ever since. My first Ramadan was in 1997, the year that IMAN was incorporated. I heard about IMAN’s work a few years before my release date and within weeks of coming home, IMAN was the first organization I approached for community and support. I needed insulin for my diabetes and got it at IMAN’s Community Health Center. I needed housing and IMAN placed me into their adult leadership home. I wanted to mobilize other brothers and sisters coming out of prison to clear some of the barriers we faced while re-entering into society, and IMAN hired me as a community organizer. Two years ago, I helped IMAN draft and pass the Removing the Invisible Bars Act, and this year we’re very close to passing our second piece of parole reform legislation, the Path to Restoration Bill.

Everything I have done since returning home has been focused on getting myself and my community off of lists that criminalize and dehumanize us, and onto paths that keep us safe, healthy, and thriving. There are thousands more just like me in cities like Chicago and Atlanta all over the country, and IMAN’s 2018 ‘Off the List, On the Love’ Ramadan Drive will ensure that hundreds more get the love and opportunities they need to realize their full potential.

With your generous donation, you’ll play a part in helping us get off those lists too.

Have a blessed Ramadan,
Nasir Blackwell

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