Early Release Granted to Man Sentenced to 100 Years in Prison, Now Accepted Into Prestigious Law School

A man who was sentenced to 100 years in prison as a teenager made a resolute decision to improve his life. He pursued his college education, gained acceptance into a prestigious law school, and eventually earned an early release from prison.

Bernard McKinley found himself facing arrest for a gang-related murder at the young age of 16. As he stood before a judge at 19, his fate was sealed – a life behind the bars of a maximum security prison. However, the mounting legal fees burdening his family motivated him to pursue a law degree, with the hope that one day he could represent himself in court. Little did he know just how remarkable his journey would become.

“I made a promise to myself as I stepped off the bus that regardless of the outcome, I would strive to improve my life. I was determined to better myself, and I succeeded,” he shared with ABC News.

During his time in prison, Bernard achieved his GED and was able to secure a place in Northwestern’s Prison Education Program (PEP). This unique program is the only one in the country that provides incarcerated students with the opportunity to earn a degree from a top 10 university.

After Bernard completed his bachelor’s degree, he dedicated himself to studying for the LSAT and submitting applications to law schools. Against all odds, he secured a place in Northwestern’s prestigious program, an impressive achievement for anyone, let alone someone incarcerated. It is worth noting that the university boasts an incredibly low acceptance rate of just 4%.

Bernard McKinley’s hard work finally paid off when he received the news that his sentence had been reduced to 25 years. As a result, he was able to regain his freedom in December 2023. Looking towards the future, Bernard is excited to begin his classes this fall and join the prestigious Northwestern Law School as part of the class of 2027.

“Just a few months ago, I was still confined within prison walls, uncertain about how my aspirations of attending law school would materialize,” he excitedly shared with The Guardian. “Now, being back home and having the opportunity to pursue a legal education feels absolutely incredible.”

According to ABC News, Bernard holds the distinction of being the first individual to have taken the LSAT while incarcerated in an Illinois prison. Additionally, he proudly stands as the first member of his family to pursue a college education.

He expressed his aspirations, saying, “I aim to pursue a career as a civil rights attorney while simultaneously establishing a non-profit legal clinic in the heart of Chicago.”

In a heartfelt confession, Bernard took complete ownership of his actions during his teenage years. He wanted to convey a powerful message to those who might have found themselves in similar situations.

He encouraged individuals to view their time in prison as an opportunity for personal growth and transformation.

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