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Doing another man’s time

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WORLD Radio - Doing another man’s time

An ex-convict wrongfully imprisoned for murder now helps former inmates stay out of prison


Richard Miles with his wife, mother, and one of his two daughters Handout

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 25th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: This week on Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast, co-hosts Kelsey Reed and Jonathan Boes help parents and educators get at the worldviews at the center of the war in Israel.

BOES: The worldview of Hamas, that's a very easy worldview to challenge I don't think you're going to find many people on the ground in your community sharing that violent, extreme worldview. But I want to talk about one of the more deceptive worldviews that we might see in our community that might say, well, who are we to tell the oppressed how they should fight back? That's a sentiment I've seen a lot. And this is where I think we bring in that term pos-colonial. We see people reducing this conflict to a kind of single black and white element of who is the oppressed, who is the oppressor. And there's really no reference to a transcendent moral authority. This is a humanist philosophy. If all good and evil in these circumstances are defined by who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor, then when you see things like the murder of civilians, you have no ground to call those things wrong if they're being committed by the oppressed.

REED: The post-colonialist view which oversimplifies or reduces into these power structures does not allow for humanity to name the evil in one another's hearts. When we cancel God, we are left with our own definitions, our own ways of trying to make sense of the world.

You can hear the entire episode of Concurrently wherever you get your podcasts. And find out more at concurrentlypodcast.com.

EICHER: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: doing another man’s time behind bars.

In 1994, Richard Miles was wrongly accused of murder. He was just 19 years old at the time and spent the next decade and a half in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

BROWN: But Miles used that painful experience for good. Today, he runs a nonprofit helping other former prisoners.

WORLD Feature Reporter Grace Snell has the story.

AUDIO: [Distant mowing, cicadas]

GRACE SNELL, REPORTER: It’s a blazing hot morning in Dallas, Texas. The sun beats down on the sports fields of a local community center in the Oak Cliff neighborhood.

A small band of workers are braving the heat. They’ve hauled an assortment of lawn mowers and leaf blowers here in a Chevy pickup and trailer. Purple lettering on the side spells out the name “Miles of Freedom.”

AUDIO: [Push mower]

A man with a push mower is cutting a path through the grass. His gray T-shirt soaked in sweat.

AUDIO: [Starting the blower]

A dark-haired woman in a pink sweatshirt follows behind—blowing grass clippings off the sidewalks.

AUDIO: [Blowing away grass clippings]

It’s a sleepy, peaceful kind of scene—nothing out-of-the-ordinary. Nothing to show the winding road these workers have traveled to get here.

KARENA: So I got referred from another lady that got out of prison. And she said Miles of Freedom was a real good program and they’ll help you get whatever you need. They helped me a whole lot. I didn’t have an ID they hired me on. I’m with the lawn crew and I get paid every week. I’m happy.

Miles of Freedom is a nonprofit helping ex-offenders adjust to life on the outside. But for its founder, Richard Miles, it’s also the fulfillment of a promise. And the redemption of a prison sentence he didn’t deserve.

In 1994, Dallas police arrested 19-year-old Richard Miles as suspect number one in a murder case. Miles had a strong alibi, but one of the eyewitnesses picked him out of a photo lineup. A jury found Miles “guilty” the following year.

MILES: And I remember when I got locked up, I’m sitting in the cell. I had 60 years. And I’m like, “God, what do you have going on here? This is, this is not right.”

But Miles says God brought to mind the story of Joseph in the Bible—another wrongful imprisonment.

MILES: And the story of Joseph personified my experience. And if I’m walking around, carrying this Book, saying I believe it, and I’m saying it’s true, then I have to say, “You know what, if you did it for Joseph, I have to trust that you will do it for me.”

In prison, Miles met an older man named Aubrey Jones. The two spent hours drinking coffee and talking. They wondered why so many people left prison just to land back behind bars.

MILES: So Aubrey Jones, and I would talk about, “Man, when you get out, when I get out, we’re going to start organization. We’re going to try to help some people because we see it from the inside.”

Then, in 2009, a judge overturned Miles’ conviction and he walked free on bond.

MILES: I ran and woke up Mr. Jones, and I gave him all my stuff. I said, “Man, I’m going, I’m going! And Mr. Jones looked at me and said, “Man, when I make parole I’m coming to see you,” and he did.

Together, Miles and Jones would start Miles of Freedom using state compensation money.

After his release, Miles encountered the obstacles that make it all-too-easy to wind up back in prison.

MILES: I walked into prison at the age of 19. I walked out at the age of 34. So just taking that into context, you’re talking about the, the formative years of a person, you’re talking about college life, you’re talking about first breakups you’re talking about. All the things that pretty much establish a person in our 30s or 40s happen in their 20s.

Everything looked different and the change was disorienting.

MILES: When I went to prison, I had just purchased a beeper. When I got out, they gave me my beeper back, but everybody had iPhones.

Miles spent some time getting his feet under him. One of his church ministers helped him find a job. He started budgeting and saving and moved into his own apartment.

Later, Miles started his nonprofit and began networking with local employers. Encouraging them to give former prisoners a chance to work.

AUDIO: [Mowing, gravel scuffing]

Miles also started offering job openings of his own. He bought some lawn mowers and organized a team of former inmates to cut grass.

Eventually, his team started managing cases. They help people leaving prison find housing, build resumes, and secure documents. This year, over 300 people came for job help. Over seventy percent now make more than sixteen dollars an hour.

Texas’ recidivism rate is about twenty percent. But at Miles of Freedom, that number is just five percent.

AUDIO: [Voices outside the food bank]

The Miles of Freedom team also partners with a food bank to distribute groceries. That’s where it clicked for Miles: Watching his team hand out food at a community center.

AUDIO: [Rustling and wrapping sounds] Thank you.

God was using his sufferings for good. Just like he did with Joseph.

MILES: I don’t know how many people we’ve impacted over the years. But we’ve been able to use this to be a resource and a continued source of hope for so many. And I think that’s what, that’s what I’m proud of. I’m proud that faith works. The trying and testing of your faith works.

AUDIO: [Handing out food]

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Grace Snell.

WORLD Commentator Whitney Williams also contributed onsite reporting to this story.

BROWN: You can read more of Richard Miles’ story in our Nov. 4 issue of WORLD Magazine. We’ve included a link to the web version in today’s show notes.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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