Second Look leads to second chances

My name is John Halcomb. I am 60 years old. I regret my violent behavior every day as I am reminded through the violence I see in my prison environment. This prison violence, however, began my rehabilitation when it caused me to empathically place myself in my victim’s place. I know that no amount of years can ever lessen the damage I have done, but if this Second Look policy succeeds, it may grant me a chance to contribute to my community by helping — if just one person — to not commit crime.

After coming to prison, I remained the same self-centered person because I focused on my pain of being in prison rather than empathizing and being ashamed for the real pain and permanent separation I caused my victim. My rehabilitation strengthened when I realized the pain and loss I caused my victim’s family was similar to the pain and loss I felt as a teenager when my own father was violently murdered by my alcoholic mother. My guilt motivated me to set a goal to maximize my education through college programs and to participate in all departmental programs a lifer without parole (LWOP) is eligible. It took some years, but I became a positive leader and trusted prisoner in my prison community.

Today, my evidence of change is shown by having more than 10 years free of prison misconducts and the respect and trust of prison staff and peers. This trust was built on my consistency in how I contribute to my prison community by volunteering to tutor GED students, being a dog trainer in the Leadership Dog Program for the Blind, and being a facilitator in Alternative to Violence Program (AVP) to help stop violence in my community.

The passing of Second Look legislation will not open prison doors, but it will open a fair review for men and women who have served decades in prison and who have the skills and mindset to be a contributing citizen. The public need not fear an old lifer looking for a safe place to be helpful.

Skills, Education and Accomplishments Earned While Incarcerated:

  • 8/23 Book Published: “So You Want to Be a Michigan Legal Writer”
  • 4/30/23 Alternative to Violence(AVP) Facilitator Training
  • 2/26/23 Advance Level Training / Alternate to Violence Project (AVP)
  • 12/2022 Leader Dog Certified Program (currently enrolled)
  • 10/2022 Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)
  • 7/2021 Leadership Dog Trainer for the Blind (current)
  • 2/2022 Calvin University Associate Degree – Community Leadership
  • 7/2016 MDOC Legal Writer Program
  • 4/2014 MDOC Leadership Development
  • 12/2006 Cage Your Rage
  • 4/2005 Conflict Resolution
  • 1/2003 Group Counseling
  • 5/2001 Self-esteem Development
  • 3/2001 Personal Growth Systems Adjustment (PGSA)
  • 5/1998 Paralegal Certificate / Blackstone School of Law
  • 5/1997 Employment Skills Training
  • 7/1994 Tutor Certificate (MI Dept of Education)
  • 8/1989 Food Technology
  • 6/1987 GED

~ John Halcomb
Ionia Correctional Facility


Good Time encourages guidance, teaching

Our Criminal Justice System is one which stresses and reinforces the notion that there are consequences to be paid for unacceptable behavior (crimes). In our society, we live under an implied social contract, in which we agree not to physically harm or otherwise violate the rights of others. We all have the right to live without being victimized by others. And when WE violate the rights of others, consequences and punishment are appropriate.

However, since Truth In Sentencing legislation was enacted, Michigan has been missing a key counterbalance. In addition to punishment, there are two other crucial components to the concept of discipline. These are guidance and teaching. The punishment (incarceration) alone doesn’t correct people. It only serves to get their attention. Guiding and teaching them how to live healthy, productive, law-abiding lives CAN achieve the goal of correction.

Presently, prisoners no longer have incentives for exhibiting exemplary behavior, growth, development and rehabilitation. There are no true goals to strive for. In other states, prisoners are strongly motivated to better themselves, and then have it recognized through length of stay reductions, like Good Time. In Michigan, too many people simply “run their clocks out” and do the absolute minimum amount of programming. They don’t see an incentive to take the initiative and strive for more. They often don’t see any reason to invest in themselves.

Those who succeed in the community after release do so in spite of prison — not because of it. Allowing for Good Time & Productivity Credits to be EARNED — not merely given — would teach personal responsibility and accountability. These behavior modification tools would have a long-lasting positive impact on both the safety of our communities, and within the prison system as well.

~ Leo Paul Carmona
Central Michigan Correctional Facility


Know us before judging us

My goal is to bring out the best in others in any conversation. With that being said, I feel people need to have real conversations about our judicial system and the people involved. Not to put them down, but to put up safeguards so things like what happened to me will not happen to other citizens.

I feel too many people jump to conclusions, get tunnel vision and make life-altering decisions without knowing the full story. The judicial system takes advantage of this for the most part. Micah 6:8 says in the Bible ” …seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

I like to try to really listen to others and not jump to conclusions.

In a letter to the judge in my case at my sentencing, my mother begged the judge to “just talk with (me) for five minutes.”

A person has the power to change someone’s life, the life of that person’s family, his friends and his community. Just give him five minutes.

We don’t do that with each other. In everyday life, we make quick judgments on people. We judge them not knowing their full story.

There was a tragedy that took place that got me in prison. However, this was not justice. If the truth will set us free, I feel people need to be willing to hear it.

We do not have a fair judicial system. People know this; however, no one wants to change it. Politics gets involved while people’s lives are thrown away. I, for one, will not go quietly into the night.

~ Brian Peterson
Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility