Turonn Lewis loves dirt bikes and motorcyles. One of his favorite memories as a child was the first time his uncle put him on the back of his motorcycle and took him for a ride. He quickly developed a talent for it and believes to this very day, at 50 years old, that, “You’re never too old to ride.” Unfortunately, Turonn hasn’t been able to ride a bike for a while. At the age of 25, he was ordered to serve a double life sentence plus 40 years without parole for being a non-violent drug offender.
Turonn is the youngest sibling, with two brothers and one sister. While he was incarcerated, his oldest brother and mother passed away only a few days apart, and his middle brother died before them. The only remaining members of Turonn’s family are his two daughters, both 28 years old now, his sister, and his siblings’ children. One of Turonn’s biggest regrets is that he was not be able to pay his respects to his deceased family members in person, especially his mother.
Turonn grew up in a single-parent household raised by his mother. She struggled to provide for the family, but made sure that Turonn had a bike, one of his most prized possessions. Turonn describes himself as a “mama’s boy” and says that she was absolutely the most influential person in his life.
The judge that gave Turonn the sentence thought his punishment was too severe. He stated that “this whole mess cries out for somebody to listen to and pay attention to the need to rationalize the federal drug laws and sentencing laws.”
The sentencing judge even submitted a letter of support for clemency for Turonn, writing, “Under all the circumstances of the case, had it not been for the Guidelines calling for sentences of life imprisonment on seen counts and 40 years on another, I seriously doubt that I would have imposed such severe sentences on Mr. Lewis, given the Sentencing Act’s repeal of parole.” Despite the judge’s support, Turonn was rejected by the Obama administration’s clemency program for first time non-violent offenders.
Turonn has completed many classes while incarcerated, including college courses and programs, as well as drug rehabilitation. He’s remorseful and accepts responsibility for all of his actions. He says that receiving a life sentence has “killed not only me, but the dreams of me being with my family again.”
Turonn continues to work on improving himself to be a better father, brother, and uncle, and hopes to one day be released from prison. If he were released, the first thing he would do would be to go to his mother’s gravesite “just so I can be somewhere that her body was laid to rest.” After over two decades in prison, it is well past time for Turonn to be released.