LEWES, Del. - "I'm blessed."
Words you wouldn't expect from a man who spent 28 years in prison, but here he sits thankful, grateful even that he's being given another chance.
"I got a second chance. Most people with my kind of situation would've died in prison."
Brian Winward has been in and out of the Delaware prison system since he was a teenager. Growing up in inner-city Wilmington going in and out of reform school his life quickly spiraled out of control.
"My teens were riddled with a roller coaster ride. I was an alcoholic and all that progressed to being in and out of adult prison," says Winward.
It became a cycle Winward couldn't break, one that led him to a 240 year sentence and three years behind bars at a maximum security prison.
Although, it was there in that dark place, lost, that he began to find himself, to truly reflect.
"That little voice again is like Brian you're lying, you can't even look at yourself in the mirror. Where are your morals and your values? There's an epidemic going on out there and you're trying to put drug dealers back on the street."
Writing letters to his judges came next admitting his guilt and apologizing and then it was all about helping young inmates.
"I was talking to them like, 'hey man look you don't want a life sentence when they take your life from you, you know, all the fun and games the thug stuff it's all over. All you want to do is get your life back.'"
Winward's change of heart, his desire to do good, led him to a panel of good people who saw his progress and helped get his sentence reduced.
28 years later he's out and contributing with a new sense of purpose and a new outlook on life.
"I know my real job is to help kids never end up in max security as a result of sticking a needle in your arm."
Winward tells 47 ABC he's already putting together his own non-profit organization to continue helping others.
And Winward is just one of five former inmates that participated in the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice's panel.
47 ABC was there as people piled in to the Trinity Faith Christian Center in Lewes to listen to those who experienced what its like to be behind bars in Delaware's prisons.
The state's prisons have been a hot topic of lately, but the individuals leading the conversation have been the ones who establish and enforce the criminal justice system and not those who were in it.
That's why tonight's panel of five was so important.
And that's exactly why former inmate Daniel Baskins was a part of the panel.
Baskins who served almost two decades in prison says, "When I first went in, it took me 30 or 40 days before I even had a coat and there was snow on the ground so things like that happen and it's been going on for years but they haven't been talked about and this is just one of the subjects were going to speak about tonight."
He continues saying, "Our awareness is that we want people to understand that these things go on. It's not just my opinion or someone else's opinion, but these are actual facts and the only way to get to the facts is exposing a lot of different things."
The former inmates not only shared their experiences inside a cell but also how those experiences didn't just affect them mentally and physically but their families and communities.
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