Presidential Pardons Give 2nd Chances to Texans - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Presidential Pardons Give 2nd Chances to Texans



    (Published Monday, Sept. 5, 2016)

    Israel Torres takes great pride in his work. He's worked with a Dallas area cabinet making company for a little more than a year now. He's even earned a promotion there. Some days he has to pinch himself to make sure it's all real.

    "I mean going from thinking that you're never going to get out of prison to getting your life back -- it's a blessing," said Torres.

    In 1998, Torres was convicted on federal consipracy charges for selling cocaine. Although it was his first offense and it did not involve violence, the Dallas native was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

    After 15 years behind bars, Torres submitted a formal request, asking President Obama to free him. Two years, later the warden called Torres to his office.

    "He said your clemency was granted," said Torres. "I put my face in my hands and I cried."

    Torres' sentence was one of 673 commuted by the Obama Administration, more than the past ten Presidents combined. It comes at a time of increased efforts to release prisoners given life sentences for non-violent first offense crimes.

    Torres told himself then he would not screw up his second chance. Cheri Garcia is helping him keep that promise.

    "Instead of keeping these guys in a box and telling them what they can and can't do because they can't be trusted, you give them opportunities and tell them you can do whatever you want -- but this is what you're leaving behind if you mess up," said Garcia.

    Her organization, Cornbread Hustle, helps former inmates find jobs and provides training to help them launch their own businesses. 

    Torres is currently taking classes and dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

    "Me being successful at what I've done now has made me proud of myself," said Torres.

    "But I'm still not done. There's still more to come."