Tony Gregg likes his eggs sunny side up, prefers sunsets to sunrise, and is obsessed with the Alex Cross series (he’s read every single one, sometimes twice!) He loves the ocean, and dreams of taking his beautiful wife on an island vacation to the Dominican Republic. Someday, he’d love to take his whole family – all five kids and eight grandkids —to Africa. Mostly though, he just wants to get home.

Tony and his wife aren’t sure what to do about prison visits. Without them, the children are barred from seeing their father, whom they adore. But the visits themselves are stressful. Jade, Tony’s youngest daughter, now eleven, cries the entire time. For weeks afterward, all she’ll talk about at home or school is how much she wants her daddy home.

Tony’s daughter Diamond, 20, had her first child January 18, 2018 —Tony’s eighth grandchild.  Two years ago, Tony missed Diamond’s high school graduation. He’s missed everything — father-daughter dances, track meets, back-to-school nights. Never got a chance to help her with her homework, even in science — his favorite subject. And now, her first baby.

Recently, thoughts of missing the rest of Jade’s childhood the way he missed Diamond’s have spiraled Tony into bouts are depression that are hard to shake. To get himself through the darkest times, he plans elaborate meals to cook for his family, just to greet his kids when they get home from school. He swears that when he gets free, his wife will never have to cook again. It’s the least he can do, he says, after she’s raised all their children on her own.

Until he suffered a severe back injury lifting heavy boxes, Tony worked in the prison warehouse. He’s taken every parenthood class offered and enrolled in drug treatment courses to treat an addiction that has plagued him since he was thirteen. As a ‘lifer’, he’s usually put at the bottom of the wait list, but he still signs up every time.  

Tony was raised by his grandmother and experienced childhood drug addiction. Despite the odds, he managed to turn his life around. Marrying his wife was the best day of his life, Tony says, and he thanks God for her every single day. Unfortunately, after years clean, Tony came in close proximity to drugs and relapsed. He began selling small amounts of crack to support his habit.

In 2009 Tony was arrested with approximately 2.5 grams of crack  —about 3 tablespoons — worth about 80 to 100 dollars. Based solely on the testimonies of two addicts and a dealer, each of whom received reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony, he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess 50 grams of crack. Because it was his third drug offense — the others had been minor possession charges sustained more than ten years before— the judge’s hands were tied.

At his sentencing hearing, Tony’s judge, Honorable James R. Spencer, stated: “I think a life sentence for what you have done in this case is ridiculous.  It is a travesty. The government, obviously you irritated them in some way and they reached back to these 1996 possessions…I don’t agree with it… And I want the world and the record to be clear on that. This is just silly. But…I don’t have any choice.”

On January 27, 2010, against his wishes, Judge Spencer sentenced  Tony Allen Gregg to Life Without Parole. He was 38 years old. Now 46,  serving his ninth year in prison, Tony writes:

“If I am released I know I can be a productive member of society as I was before. I have a family who needs me and I need them. The threat of dying in here is very real. I only need one chance to show you I can be all I am supposed to be.”

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