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Photo by Dan Meyers, Unsplash

Touching the life of a stranger is an act of faith, friendship and kindness.

Henry Jewell is a recently released Juvenile Lifer. Mr. Jewell was originally sentenced to life without parole for a crime he committed when he was 17 years old. In 2012, while Mr. Jewll remained behind bars, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to sentence children under the age of 18 to life without the possibility of parole.  Since that ruling, the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) has petitioned courts to grant resentencing to Juvenile Lifers.

For the past 5 years, Birmingham and Berkley First have worked with SADO to provide clothing and life essentials to over 25 Juvenile lifers on the day that each one was released from prison. Our congregation provides the Church & Society Ministry with the funding necessary to support this life affirming work.   

The letter below was written on Mr. Jewell’s behalf by the SADO Reentry Team. Mr. Jewell spent 30 years in prison and our gifts were presented to him as he left prison. Mr. Jewell wished to share his deep and sincere appreciation to every member of our faith community. He could not have given us a greater gift!


Dear First United Methodist Church of  Birmingham,

On behalf of Henry Jewell and so many others you’ve helped, I want to sincerely thank you for your generosity as our clients come home having once been sentenced to life without parole.

Mr. Jewell was overwhelmed with gratitude when he left prison behind after 30 years to come home to his warm winter coat, and was beaming over all of his new clothes and other items you procured for him. After decades of incarceration, Mr. Jewell and our other clients are always quite blown away by your kindness, as kindness to that degree is something that had rarely been afforded to them. The bags you donate to our clients humanize their reentry and provide a sense of normalcy as they begin the difficult but exciting transition into their new lives.

Mr. Jewell wanted me to share the following: 

“If it hadn’t been for the church, I don’t know what I would have done. I needed help figuring out my sizes because I never knew how clothing sizes even worked. Without the church, I would have been stuck in my khaki MDOC scrubs but now I can go out into the world feeling like a free man.”

Once again, we are so grateful for your thoughtful gestures and care for our valued clients.

With appreciation,

Anna & the State Appellate Defender Office (SADO)Office Project Reentry team (and of course, all of the juvenile lifers you’ve helped along the way!)