Denise Nickens, mother of Habakkuk Nickens, speaks to the crowd about ending gun violence during the Gone But Not Forgotten balloon release held July 15, 2016, at Billings Park in downtown Syracuse. She assisted in finalizing the event, which was organized by her son. | Aubrey Moore

Seeking Redemption

Guest Column by Habakkuk Nickens

My name is Habakkuk Nickens, and I recently returned home from a 20-year prison sentence, convicted on racketeering charges. My time was cut to 13 years and 4 months on a compassionate release motion I wrote myself.

Habakkuk Nickens

Next, the First Step Act allowed for an additional year off my sentence, providing me immediate release.

I returned home May 5.

The reason I was blessed with such a huge cut of my time is because I committed the time I served to rehabilitation. I studied hard and took over 50 classes, such as parenting, alternatives to violence, victim impact and more. Then when I gained the knowledge, I created and led my own classes to teach others.

My community ties were another factor in bringing me home.

READ PAST ARTICLE: “Former Gang Member Promotes Cease-Fire”

During my incarceration, I founded an organization called Men Educating Neighborhoods. Our mission is to bring awareness to gang violence, gun violence and any violence affecting the nation. Our first initiative was operation ceasefire. We worked on truce meetings, violence awareness days and prevention. I completed all of this from behind the wall from 2014 to 2018.

I was in prison for violent acts; however, while incarcerated, I got close to the guys I was warring against on the street, and we were able to work on ceasefire together — as a team.

Now, that I’ve received a second chance, I plan to continue on a path to be a strong influence in my community. I’ve come to understand what that takes and see what must be done to change the prevalence of violence in our city. I am an ally, and I am here to help.

Habakkuk Nickens will continue to share his progress through a community column featured here in The Stand

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