My journey through criminal justice reform

I didn’t come to this willingly. My experience in the criminal justice system is something I never imagined would happen. It all changed for me on October 24, 2007 when my company was raided by 200 agents of the FBI. This massive mobilization by federal law enforcement was overwhelming, shocking and terrifying.

Before that day, I had it all. A stable childhood with the best education possible. A strong marriage and loving family. A successful career as a high-powered in-house general counsel. My company was the most successful healthcare IPO on Wall Street, and we rang the bell on the floor of the stock exchange.

Everything came crashing down on the day of the raid, but God was not done teaching me lessons. In 2013, I was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks before I was scheduled to appear in federal court to defend myself against criminal charges. After beating cancer once, my disease relapsed in 2015 two weeks before another landmark moment in my decade-long legal saga.

When I beat cancer a second time, I prayed that federal prosecutors might show me mercy, but their version of mercy was a plea agreement. Desperate to end this nightmare, I accepted the deal and pled guilty to a single count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program. I apologized for my actions and accepted full responsibility for my failures. I was sentenced to six months incarceration in federal prison, followed by a year of home confinement wearing an ankle monitor during three years of supervised release.

After fulfilling the terms of my sentence, the court granted early termination of my supervision in December 2019. On January 20, 2021, I woke up to the surprise news of an unexpected full and unconditional presidential pardon. This amazing gift of mercy has given me the opportunity to continue helping others. I now choose to dedicate my life in service to those needing greater degrees of mercy from our criminal justice system.

I serve on the leadership team for my church and on the board of directors of Love INC (In the Name of Christ), a multi-denominational ministry. I am a group leader for the Justice Ministry within my church and serve on the Justice Committee of HOPE, the Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality. I support local grass roots organizations such as the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, FAMM, the Innocence Project and others, and I participate in dialogues about racial justice and equality. I describe my church as a “citadel of social justice warriors,” and I am proud to be one of them. We seek to make God’s love real and change our community one person at a time.

Having served as a guest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I met and lived with people that I would never have experienced. Following my release, I learned to help people, mostly homeless men, dealing with issues of mental health, substance abuse and law enforcement. With my privileged background, I now realize that I was entitled, ignorant and naïve about the functions of the criminal justice system. I understand that our society needs to rethink its approach to crime and punishment, and I am working to share more mercy with others who deserve it through responsible criminal justice reforms. I am proud to support a number of specific reform initiatives that will be future topics of this blog.

Thank you for joining me in this journey to show God’s mercy.

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Thad Bereday

Thad Bereday

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Father. Former Executive. Previously Incarcerated. Presidentially Pardoned. Using mercy to advocate for criminal justice reform.