Jeffery McReynolds of Frankfort says he is determined to raise awareness for second chances for people who’ve been incarcerated.
McReynlonds shared his story on April 26 on a Second Chance Month Roundtable, which was hosted by Susan Rice, domestic policy advisor to the Biden administration; Dana Remus, White House counsel; and Cedric Richmond, senior advisor to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
In February, McReynolds and his wife, Shaneva, went to Washington DC to lobby for the EQUAL act, “which seeks to end the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder,” according to the FAMM Foundation, a nonprofit that works toward sentencing and prison reform and compassionate release.
McReynolds’ own sentence was reduced in 2015 after spending 11 years in prison. When he was 27, McReynolds was sentenced on Oct. 20, 2005, to 19 years and seven months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute 50 grams to 1.5 kilograms of cocaine.
“I focused on two days,” he said in the video. “The day I walked in and the day I walked out.”
McReynolds said he viewed his prison sentence as a wake-up call.
“Something clicked when I was sentenced,” McReynolds said. “This could have saved my life. Now is the time for me to get on the right track.”
While in prison, McReynolds said he earned his GED and business degree from Ashworth College. He also learned about the logistic industry because his goal was to start his own business.
“I wanted to be prepared for a better kind of life than when I walked in,” he said. “I knew I had that strike against me. I wanted to be one of those people who said, ‘Hey, I left that behind and can now move forward.’ ”
Often, McReynolds was assigned public defenders. He studied about the cases that applied to him and shared the information with his attorney, he said.
“I didn’t understand the law until I sat down in the library and started studying in prison,” McReynolds said. “I learned a lot.”
McReynolds married his childhood sweetheart Shaneva in 2014, while he was still in prison. Once released, McReynolds said, he kept thinking about the people who weren’t.
“My husband has never met a stranger,” Shaneva said. “He wants to help everybody.”
Shaneva said people don’t consider the circumstances that drive people to commit crimes – or the fact that the incarcerated are real human beings.
She said other families started contacting her and McReynolds wanting to know how they could get their loved ones home, too. Shaneva also started working on her doctorate in public administration with a concentration in law and public policy.
“Our dining room table turned into this place of helping people,” Shaneva said.
McReynolds said he won’t stop fighting for good people who just need a second chance.
“When I first came out, I had over 43 people on my email list that contacted me all the time. Now I have four,” McReynolds said. “Some of them are home now, and others are still waiting to come out. It doesn’t stop.”