Matthew Charles watched President Trump sign the First Step Act into law from behind bars. But thanks to the overwhelmingly bipartisan bill that passed late last year, Charles was able to watch the president address the nation in person Tuesday night -- as a free man who had been given a "second chance at life."
Trump, who invited Charles as a guest to his speech, highlighted Charles' "story of redemption" while talking about criminal justice reform, saying the former inmate who is now the face of the First Step Act "represents the very best of America."
“It was a remarkable time,” Charles told “America’s Newsroom” Wednesday morning. “Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Once I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, that inward spiritual change started to reflect itself outwardly.
And it was a moment that Charles said was only made possible by a decision he made exactly 23 years ago. He was sentenced to 35 years for selling crack cocaine and other offenses in 1996 when a friend gave him a Bible and he heard a minister share about how to come to Christ.
"Once I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, that inward spiritual change started to reflect itself outwardly," Charles said. "Because of that, everything I did after that was a reflection of everything that had taken place on that February day in 1996."
He completed more than 30 Bible studies, became a law clerk, taught GED classes and mentored fellow inmates.
Today, he is very grateful to be the face of criminal justice reform, pushing for more to be done. But he said his work isn't finished just yet.
He said God placed it in his heart "to help the poor, the homeless, and single-parent families" when he first accepted Jesus, and that's what he plans to do for the rest of free life.