Formerly incarcerated advocate for NYC criminal justice reform arrested for murder

Formerly incarcerated advocate for NYC criminal justice reform arrested for murder - Crime and Courts - News

Title: From Criminal Justice Reformer to Accused Murderer: A Chilling Transformation

A man, Sheldon Johnson, 48, who devoted several decades of his life to the criminal justice system as an inmate and later emerged as a prominent advocate for reform, has been arrested and charged with a heinous crime. The New York Police Department announced that Johnson was taken into custody on Thursday, March 23, 2023, for the brutal murder and dismemberment of Collin Small, a Bronx resident.

Johnson, who was released from prison last May, had been advocating for rehabilitation and criminal justice reform after serving time. He had become a public figure for his journey through the criminal justice system and shared his experiences in various platforms, including Joe Rogan’s popular podcast last month.

The tragic events unfolded on Tuesday when neighbors reported hearing gunshots coming from Small’s apartment in the Bronx. Law enforcement officials arrived at the scene and discovered an unidentified human torso inside the apartment. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is currently determining the cause of death.

During the investigation, it was revealed that Johnson was at Small’s apartment when officers arrived. Upon searching Johnson’s Harlem residence, authorities found a human arm, legs, and head with a gunshot wound in the freezer. Surveillance Website video integration also showed Johnson entering and exiting the victim’s building wearing different disguises and at one point carrying a large blue bin, which was later found at Small’s home with the torso inside.

Before his advocacy work, Johnson had been convicted of homicide, robbery, and several other charges back in 1999. He was incarcerated on June 8, 1999. Despite these past transgressions, Johnson had become a voice for rehabilitation and criminal justice reform since his release from prison.

The Queens Defenders, an organization that provides legal representation to individuals who cannot afford a lawyer, declined to comment when asked about Johnson’s current situation. Brian Stanley, a justice court advocate at Avenues for Justice, an NYC-based group advocating for alternatives to incarceration for youth offenders, expressed hope that people can differentiate between Johnson’s alleged crimes and the work he was doing in criminal justice reform.

Stanley emphasized that it is essential to consider the broader picture, acknowledging the depravity and insanity of Johnson’s alleged actions while recognizing the challenges faced by individuals who have experienced incarceration. He highlighted that jails and prisons are inherently violent places and urged people to be aware of the trauma experienced by individuals while they are incarcerated.

During his interview on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Johnson described himself as a “product of intergenerational incarceration.” He talked about facing social and economic challenges in his youth, with his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all having spent time in prison. Johnson explained that he had been sent to a psychiatric facility for behavioral issues as a child and never returned to school, leading him to sell drugs to survive.

Despite his past, Johnson decided to turn away from crime after experiencing harsh treatment in prison and getting his GED. His LinkedIn profile lists him as the co-founder of FICAR (Formerly Incarcerated Citizens Against Recidivism), an organization dedicated to dismantling recidivism and stemming the pipeline of mass incarceration.

As the investigation into Collin Small’s murder continues, it remains to be seen how Johnson’s past and present actions will be perceived by society. Regardless, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the complexities surrounding criminal justice and rehabilitation.