A mother's incredible journey to forgive and mentor the man who killed her son in 'The Redemption Project'
The new CNN original series will be hosted by Van Jones who has been fighting criminal justice reform for more than 20 years
A new CNN originals series titled 'The Redemption Project', hosted by Van Jones who has been fighting criminal justice reform for more than two decades, will be looking at restorative justice processes.
The 'Redemption Project' helps victims or family members of victims of a life-changing crime come face to face with their offenders in the hope of finding some answers and getting some closure. The show opens with the story of a woman who lost her son to a drug shootout in Alaska where the problem and dependence on drugs are growing every minute.
Do you believe in miracles? You will if you watch #RedemptionProject, my new docuseries on the restorative justice process, starting next Sunday (4/28) at 9pm ET/PT on @CNN.— Van Jones (@VanJones68) April 20, 2019
NEW YORK: advanced screening at @brennancenter on Monday, 4/22. https://t.co/kpA5nVKdFX pic.twitter.com/v5pxJVne0u
As Van says there is a "cycle of addiction, crime, incarceration, release, addicted, crime, jail. It is an endless cycle. 66% who get out of prison are returning to prison within three years."
The first episode looks at the story of Terria Walters who lost her son Christopher Seaman in a drug-related incident and was willing to come face to face with her son's killer to talk to him. She described Christopher as a "gentle giant" to who people would go to with their problems and was a determined child, ready to go to college and was the first to graduate high school in the family.
Christopher wanted to join the navy but was unable to due to his diabetes. This led to depression which further took him on a downward spiral. Christopher turned to heroin as an answer and became unpredictable. On June 22, 2015, Christopher left home and was discovered dead at around 4 am the day after. "I was beside myself. I could not wrap my head around 'my son was dead' and I am the parent of a murdered child," Walters shared.
Walters came to know the name of her son's killer, Joshua Beebe, and had no idea who he was except that Christopher and Josh met for a heroin deal after which Josh shot him in the back of the head. Christopher was stuffed in the back seat of his car and left to bleed to death. In 2017, Josh, who was also an addict, was convicted of second-degree murder at the age of 32 and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Josh revealed he had a normal and good upbringing and was 18 when he got married and had a son. He was initially arrested for eluding the police and had to do three years for it. He was then caught on a theft charge after leaving prison. Josh recalled meeting Christopher in 2015 and they "hung out". They would also sell heroin to each other. On that fateful day, Josh and Christopher met and Josh confessed that he had set Christopher up to be robbed and the incident unfolded.
When it came to the day of meeting Joshua, Walters shared that this would have been something Christopher would have wanted. "He would be happy with me. I am not drowning myself in what I would have done," Walters shared. Walters who used to also be an addict began to think of Josh's future and "as somebody who has wanted justice, what does justice mean? Addiction is progressive. He (Josh) is going to get out if he does not get a hold of it now, what will it look like in 23 years?"
She also shared her fears over having the dialogue with Josh and hoped he would be remorseful and not deny the crime. Instead of focusing on her anger and pain, she chooses to redirect it and said, "I am angry at what you have done but I feel empathy for you. Because I think to myself, how your addiction is taking you that far. I took my addiction pretty far but I changed that," Walters, who has been sober for 13-and-a-half years, shared.
"I have the support that keeps me going and my son is one of them. He may not be here, but my son would not want me to go backward. And knowing my son, he would want the same thing for you. If anything could come out of this life, I hope you really understand your worth as a person. How you can make amends to me? Change your life," she said to Josh before finding it in her to offer to mentor him, which he sincerely agrees to.
Josh apologizes to Walters on many counts through the conversation only to hear how she had forgiven him, a long time ago. Walters commends Josh on being brave enough to have the dialogue with her before the two share how relieved the process has made them feel. "Knowing you care enough to talk to me, helps me, thank you," Josh tells Walters and the two embrace.
As the episode ends, Van Jones talks about the kind of closure that both the parties involved were able to get and how rehabilitation can change an individual or a family's life which in turn would benefit society as a whole. "This is one small step (at least in Josh's case) to breaking the cycle of addiction, arrest, re-arrest, that's what it's all about."