RICHMOND, Va. — For author Terry Robinson, discovering that his favorite form of expression was writing was a discovery he made later in life.
The then 30-year-old was jailed and sentenced to death in North Carolina for a murder he says he did not commit.
“Being innocent on death row is deeply depressing and brings little peace of mind. It’s my fight to keep the hope I deserve when the guilt isn’t mine,” Robinson said. . . , guilt or innocence does not matter, in a nation like ours, where both are subject to the death penalty.”
After nearly 20 years on death row, Robinson had the opportunity to share her story with the world through the non-profit organization Walk in These Shoes.
“All people deserve life, you know. Everyone deserves to have their story told,” Robinson said.
The group gives inmates a chance to share their experiences in the hope that their personal stories and unique perspective will serve as therapy for both reader and author.
“Where there is rehabilitation there is insight, you know, there is education in these stories. So hopefully people can start reading my stories and forgiving, you know, being understanding,” Robinson said.
Robinson says he has always been passionate about learning and is grateful for Walk in These Shoes’ work in prison reform.
“I’ve always been interested in trying to excel and trying to grow in things, and writing was just one of them,” he explained. “The reality is that a lot of people in prison are uneducated. Men come to prison, and we learn to perpetuate our bad behaviors, where it gets even worse so that we go back almost permanently to prison.
Stories like Robinson’s inspired Henrico resident Kimberly Carter to launch the nonprofit and continue its mission.
“In 2015, I had seen the story on the news about Michael Mitchell. And he was basically, what they call, lost to death in a Hampton Roads jail,” Carter said. “Writing was my outlet and a way I helped stay sane during tough times. It didn’t start out that way, but eventually it turned into writers in prison sharing their stories.
Carter said she learned so much from a group that many often write off and hopes Walk in These Shoes will continue to restore faith in inmates and in the society they thought they had abandoned.
“It restored my sense of faith in society,” Robinson said. “I have to be as authentic as possible in my writing. I write for myself because I realized that might very well be the last thing the world remembers about me.”
Find more stories like Robinson’s and ways to help the group on their website.
WTVR’s Joi Fultz first reported this story.