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Photos By: Naomieh Jovin

A Greater Vision

As a young child, Giovanni had difficulty seeing. Afflicted with a rare childhood condition, he had multiple procedures to remove cataracts, eventually regaining his sight. A few years later–but still a child–he was charged as an adult and sentenced to die in prison. His vision – this time, the vision of his own future – became cloudy. In his typical understated fashion, Giovanni describes this experience simply: “Getting condemned as a child is a hell of a thing.”

During his 26 years of incarceration, mostly at Graterford State Prison, Giovanni took leadership of his own life. He took advantage of every educational opportunity and he became an expert in his own case. Haunted, he imagined what his legacy could have been: “When they sentence you to life, and you think that this is it…you definitely don’t want your legacy to be that you went to prison, did nothing with your life, and died there.”

That was not Giovanni’s story. An imagined positive future became a powerful force in Giovanni’s life, creating hope and giving meaning to each day as he took every step possible to prepare for and realize his eventual release. That release finally came four years ago, and since then, he’s thriving. Not only is he experiencing liberation from the prison system, but he’s also experiencing adult independence for the first time – his own place, his own car, and three jobs. Utilizing the varied educational opportunities he participated in while incarcerated, Giovanni drives a hotel shuttle, does maintenance for a local bakery, and works as a freelance paralegal.

As a 16-year-old child, Giovanni never belonged in the adult system, but he never let it define him. He was always engaged in his own case, and he wants to be remembered for always helping those in need. Giovanni’s legacy is one of hope. Now, his life is about making a difference – about “reaching back” to those “good guys I left behind,” and finding a way to “do things that matter.”

Even when it was difficult, Giovanni saw a vision of his future. He was resilient because he knew liberation could happen. And now, he doesn’t have to imagine that more positive future.

He’s living it.

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