Sherman Wright

Sherman Wright, 56, has been incarcerated at the Lansing Correctional Facility since age 23 for robbery and burglary charges. He moves more slowly and painfully now. He even has a Kansas Department of Corrections order stating he be placed only on bottom bunks because of his physical limitations.

Still, he has taken full advantage of DOC programming and job opportunities, learning welding and building maintenance, and how to train service dogs to assist the disabled.

Sherman, who has been imprisoned for 33 years—about 10 years longer than has ever been free—has finished 85 percent of his sentence. In a cruel twist, had he been sentenced under more recent sentencing guidelines, he likely would have been released by now.

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The Kansas Sentencing Act of 1993 changed sentencing guidelines, shortening sentences for property crimes and lengthening them for violent crimes. But the Act was only made retroactive for 2,000 people, leaving hundreds of people like Sherman languishing under dated sentencing guidelines.

In that time, he has prepared for his eventual release by building skills and trying to give back.

He completed those welding and building maintenance certifications and served as main cook in the Lansing kitchen. He also has taken speech classes and delivered speeches to young people, encouraging them avoid his mistakes.

Sherman also has directed the United States Junior Chamber chapter where he raised money to support charitable causes.

His flagging health drives a sense of urgency for his release. He suffers from diabetes in addition to the knee and muscle pain.

He lost both parents and a sister while incarcerated, but plans to live with his surviving sister if he is released.

“I plan to pursue a job cooking — which is my passion — and continue seeking mentoring opportunities.”

Even with declining health, he has a chance at experiencing a life more defined by freedom than by imprisonment.