The Philadelphia Inquirer: Donnell Drinks | May 23, 2022
I was born in North Philadelphia to a 17-year-old mother who struggled with addiction and an 18-year-old father who would later abandon me and my younger brother. My childhood was marked by instability, both at home and in my neighborhood, where the police presence felt like an occupying force.
By the time I was a teenager, I had experienced homelessness, hunger, and mental and physical abuse. I existed solely in heightened survival mode. One night, an adult friend and I attempted a robbery, which tragically left a man dead. I was tried, convicted, and given the death penalty — all before I turned 18. I feel remorse every day for the pain I caused.
Eventually, my sentence was overturned, and I was given life without parole. After serving 27 years, a wave of reforms about harsh sentences for people convicted as juveniles made it possible for me to seek a reduced sentence, and I was able to demonstrate that I was prepared to come home. Four years ago, I left prison as a free man.
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