Trump “went out of his way to shake hands with each of these 29 graduates,” Ponder said.
The re-entry lawyer said he was initially skeptical of Trump’s speech on criminal justice reform, but that “the promises he made were promises he kept.”
“Today, praise God, I am filled with hope. A proud American citizen who has been given a second chance. My transformation began in a prison cell, when I found myself a three-time criminal sentenced to another sentence. I gave my life to Jesus, ”Ponder said.
Former FBI agent Richard Beasley, who arrested Ponder but later became his best friend, also appeared in the segment aired at the Republican convention.
“The first person to help me was actually the FBI agent who arrested me, Rich Beasley,” Ponder said.
Beasley said, “I am grateful for President Trump’s commitment to criminal justice reform,” but “I also appreciate President Trump’s support for law enforcement.”
In a video posted earlier Tuesday and replayed during the RNC, Trump pardoned Ponder.
“Jon’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption,” Trump said in the video.
“We believe that each person is created by God for a purpose. I will continue to give all Americans, including former convicts, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream and a great American dream.
Trump said Ponder embraced Christianity after listening to religious radio broadcasts.
“When I met Jon 15 years ago, he was angry, scared, frustrated and anxious for his future,” Beasley said in the previous video. “On the way to jail, I stopped at a convenience store and bought Jon a coffee and a donut. After being sentenced, Jon sent me a tie and a note, thanking me for treating him like a gentleman.
The former FBI agent said many law enforcement officers are now volunteering for the Ponder prisoner re-entry group.
Trump’s advisers, and even some opponents, say he could build support among minorities by talking about criminal justice reform, including his role in passing the 2018 First Step Act, which implemented various penitentiary reforms and sentence reductions and expanded humanitarian release.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, on the other hand, drafted a 1994 crime law, which contributed to “mass incarceration.” Her running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Oversaw 1,900 marijuana convictions as a San Francisco District Attorney.
Trump faces a delicate balance between criminal justice reform while pushing a ‘law and order’ message, particularly in relation to the recent violent protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police in May .