A free man after 15 years in a federal prison in Georgia, Mobile native Chris Calhoun is looking to continue the charity work he started from behind bars.
Calhoun, the founder of a charity called Incarcerated Angels, credited his nonprofit work and the federal First Step Act with his early release. Shortly after Lagniappe profiled Calhoun and the charity in June 2019, which took donations from federal inmates and distributed funds to a number of nonprofit organizations, U.S. District Judge William Steele started the paperwork on his release.
“I think like six days afterward is when he sent the paperwork saying he was willing to take 10 years off my sentence due to the First Step Act and many other things I was doing,” Calhoun said of Steele. “I’m guessing it was Incarcerated Angels.”
Kit Ekman, a clerk in the U.S. District Court in Mobile and acting spokesman for the judges, told Lagniappe Calhoun was primarily released due to the change in sentencing guidelines that came with the passage of the First Step Act in 2018. The court, Ekman said, received a flurry of requests for judges to look over cases due to the changes and Calhoun’s case was one of those.
Calhoun, Ekman said, was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 240 months because of a prior felony conviction and his possession of 52 grams of crack cocaine at the time of his arrest.
“When he was sentenced, it would’ve been a 20-year sentence because of the prior conviction,” Ekman said. “That’s now associated with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.”
Once Steele lowered Calhoun’s time remaining, Calhoun said he was transferred to a prison in Montgomery and then waited to come home.
Calhoun will spend some time in a halfway house in Spanish Fort, but after that he wants to “serve God” and begin a ministry for troubled youth.
I want to work with younger kids, you know, young adults and people that’s in the streets,” Calhoun said. “I’ll be trying to bring some peace and justice into the life of these kids.”
Matthew Morris, a childhood friend of Calhoun, who helped him administer Incarcerated Angels funds, is helping him get a driver’s license, confirmed there’s a vehicle waiting for him and his helping, along with other friends, to find him a job.
“It was really great to see him,” Morris said. “It’s really exciting to see someone get a second chance at life.”
Once those essential steps are out of the way, Morris said his buddy wants to reach out to young people in “The Bottom” area of Mobile, where Calhoun grew up. The organization would be called Bottom’s Up, Morris said.
“That’s his vision, to give back,” he said. “I’m excited to see where that leads.”
Morris praised the First Step Act as a way to adjust wrongs done to those caught up in the justice system.
“Justice is starting to correct itself somewhat,” Morris said. “It makes me feel good about where our justice system is heading.”
When asked about his son’s charity work while in prison, Chris Calhoun Sr. called it an “inspiration.”
“It played a very important part in him being released,” the elder Calhoun said. “I hope he stays sincere about doing what he needs to do. Promises are not always hard to keep if that’s what’s in your heart. You have to have it in your heart to do it.”
As for having his son back home after so long in prison, the elder Calhoun called it “a total relief.”
“It’s a blessing for the family,” he said.
The junior Calhoun called it a blessing to be out and closer to home after so long away.
“Words can’t explain it,” he said. “For me to be home with my loved ones — my family, friends and people I love. It’s just a blessing. It’s a blessing from God.”
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