'God used a lot of people to bring about my freedom,' Matthew Charles feels freedom again
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —
Almost exactly a week ago, Matthew Charles got to feel freedom for the third time.
“I'm still soaking it all in, it's still coming to reality,” he said.
The Little Pantry That Could in Nashville was one of his very first stops as a free man.
“It's family. Not only do I call the staff there family, but also those that come there to receive,” Charles said.
His is a story like no other.
In 1996, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling crack.
He spent 21 years behind bars before being released because of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced some drug sentences.
“I'm 100% a complete different person than I was prior to 1996,” Charles said.
“He kills every stereotype there is,” said Pantry Executive Director Stacy Downey.
She described him as a very patient and humble man who has a way with people.
“He cares so much about the people who come here and he cares so much about the volunteers. I think it's just an easy thing for him; it's just natural,” Downey said.
Charles himself said he is a humble man, and describes himself as a people person.
But two years later, the Department of Justice said he was released in error.
They called him a career offender because his resume included previous charges like domestic assault and kidnapping, so he was ordered to go back.
Charles turned himself in. People all around the country were outraged.
A lawyer took on his case pro bono, and – last December – President Trump signed the First Step Act that retroactively reduced some crack offenses.
Charles said he's ashamed of his past, but he openly tells people and employers about it.
“I know it may be brought to their attention that I do have, what I call, such a horrendous past, so I want them to hear it from me,” Charles said.
And to everyone else, he can't thank them enough for making this dream come true.
“God used a lot of people to bring about my freedom today.” Charles said.
Right now, he's staying with a friend in Nashville, and he said this all is incredible because he's never had such a huge support system behind him.