Michelle Jones: The Stigma Of Having A Criminal Record



Prisoners serve time but Black American Michelle Jones let her time in prison serve her.

Michelle put her sentence time into good use by developing herself academically and creatively.

The 45-year old was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for killing her 4 year old son. Last month she was set free after serving 20 years of the sentence.

While in prison she embraced education and made the best out of the prison library. In most developed and developing societies, education is introduced into the prison system in order to help inmates reform their characters and be better for the outside world when the time comes.

Coupled with her academic prowess in Indiana prisons, Michelle’s sentence was reduced for her good behavior as well.

Every ex-convict bothers about the stigma that comes with re-entering the civil society. Most times they find it difficult to gain employment or admittance into schools.

Some ex-convicts who have the jailbird syndrome have claimed that stigmatization makes them feel unwanted. As a result, they deliberately or care-freely commit offenses that will take them right back to prison.

In Michelle Jones case, several institutions have declined her admission application for both known and unknown reasons. It is an open secret that her ex-convict status influenced these institutions’ decisions.

See Also: This African American Gets $2 million After Being Wrongly Convicted For 39 Years

Looking at her academic accomplishments while in prison, her admittance into school was not expected to be a hurdle. Her well spent prison time as argued by her supporters is a proof of her intellectual capacity to thrive in furthering her education in the outside world.

Formerly known as prisoner No. 970554, Michelle has written several dance compositions and historical plays. One of the plays is said to open at an Indianapolis theater in December.

Michelle Jones

In what is considered the Indiana Historical Society’s best research project last year, Michelle led a team of inmates to research into the history of Indiana Prison.

Michelle has attracted the interest of University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan; the University of Kansas; and New York University.



A day after her release, she arrived NYU as a promising Ph.D. student in American studies.

On the reverse, schools like Yale and Harvard rejected her application.

Of the two schools, many observers want to find out why Harvard initially accepted her application only to retract it later. According to Harvard, she had lightly represented her crime in her application.

See Also: Another Black American Settled With $15 Million After 20 Years Of Wrongful Conviction

Michelle Jones’ Crime

Michelle got pregnant in High School at the age of 14. Her mother’s reaction was a hint the teenager lived in a domestic-violent prone home. She violently attacked her.

Confirming that in a statement sent to Harvard alongside her application, Michelle said she had suffered a psychological breakdown. This made her met out harsh treatments to her 4-year old son, Brandon Sims.

On one occasion, he beat the boy and abandoned him for days in their apartment. She later returned to find the boy dead. After serving 2 years in a mental home she admitted that she had buried the boy without a word to her family or the boy’s father.

She concluded her statement to Harvard saying;

“I have made a commitment to myself and him that with the time I have left, I will live a redeemed life, one of service and value to others.”

Regardless of her academic and behavioral testimonial, Harvard is still skeptical about admitting her. They maintain that the institution does not “comment on individual applicants”.

Michelle Jones has taken the rejection in good faith.

“People don’t survive 20 years of incarceration with any kind of grace unless they have the discipline to do their reading and writing in the chaos of that place.”

“Forget Harvard. I’ve already graduated from the toughest school there is.”

In the future she hopes to teach NYC’s prison education program. This can only be possible if her parole officer permits it.