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At The End Of A Murder Sentence, A Redemption Forged From Forgiveness

On Thursday, President Obama became the first sitting president in U.S. history to visit a federal prison, taking a tour of the El Reno Federal Correction Institution in Oklahoma. Earlier in the week, he addressed the NAACP in Philadelphia, calling for reforms in the criminal justice system — with the hopes of helping people who have served time turn their lives around.

Oshea Israel, whom listeners first met through StoryCorps in 2011, has done just that.

When Israel was a teenager, he got into a fight with another young man at a party and killed him. He went to prison for that murder — but before he finished his sentence in his 30s, he made peace with Mary Johnson-Roy, the mother of the man he killed.

Now out of prison, he and Johnson-Roy came to StoryCorps several years ago to discuss a relationship founded upon forgiveness.

"It motivates me to make sure that I stay on the right path," Israel tells Johnson-Roy. "You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it, despite how much pain I caused you — it's amazing."

Just this year, in January, Mary Johnson-Roy got married. Oshea Israel was there to walk her down the aisle.

Hear the conversation in full at the audio link above.

(This conversation initially aired on May 20, 2011, on Morning Edition).

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher Morris.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at

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