Wadlington, now 54, has been incarcerated for 16 years. He had two previous state drug convictions as a teenager before being convicted in February 1999 on three counts of drug conspiracy, a non-violent offense.
He insisted that he was pressured for months by a local dealer to sell drugs, but went to meet him to talk about a different method of making money. No drugs, guns, or unusual amounts of money were found on Wadlington at the time of his arrest., but the three-strikes sentencing guidelines in Illinois led to him receiving two life sentences without parole.
Since then, Wadlington has helped hundreds of incarcerated men obtain their GEDs and created re-entry programs for soon-to-be released prisoners. However, his appeals have been exhausted and the Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2007.
“I've chosen to represent change, respect, and redemption. I have chosen to show people, myself included, that rehabilitation is possible,” he wrote in an article for Huffington Post. “Because of my life sentences, I can only hope to have the opportunity to share my experience, newfound wisdom, and unique perspective with others who could benefit from it on the outside.”