UNITED STATES—On Tuesday, August 25, President Trump announced a pardon of Jon Ponder, an ex-convict turned activist, during an appearance at the Republican National Convention.
Ponder was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to five years in federal prison. After his release in 2009, he founded Hope for Prisoners in Nevada. The program aims to enable former convicts to reintegrate into society, working with law enforcement and local businesses.
According to researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, between January and June 2015, 64 percent of participants of the program found stable employment and 6 percent of participants were arrested again.
“Hope for prisoners is a movement that began as a dream, in a tiny prison cell, and is now making a difference in the lives of thousands, truly bringing hope that there is an opportunity and a community that is waiting and willing to offer them a second chance,” said President Trump. “Jon’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption.”
Ponder stood by Trump and Rich Beasley, the FBI agent who arrested him.
“[Rich Beasley] is now a dear friend. My hope for America is that all people regardless of race, color, class or background will take advantage of the fact that we live in a nation of second chances,” said Ponder.
Beasley said of Ponder: “When I met Jon 15 years ago, he was angry, scared, and facing years in prison. On the drive to jail, we had a long talk and began to understand each other. Five years later, when he got out of prison, Jon and I met for lunch. He was a different man. He talked about starting a re-entry program for men and women coming out of prison. He knew he could make a difference in the lives of ex-offenders.”
Earlier in the year, the Nevada Pardons Board granted Ponder clemency for his past battery convictions. Trump’s pardon clears Ponder’s record of the federal bank robbery conviction.