In Letters to a Lifer, Cindy Sanford of Pennsylvania writes about how she went from “tough on crime” to believing that children–even those convicted of serious crimes–can change and be rehabilitated.

Sanford, who describes herself as politically conservative, has been around law enforcement her entire life. Her grandfather was a New York City police officer and her husband recently retired after a career in law enforcement. She believed in the adage “if you do the crime, you do the time.”

That changed when Cindy, a registered nurse who also owned an art gallery, got to know a young man serving life without parole for a crime committed as a teen. Their first interaction came when someone brought in some of the young man’s artwork. The paintings on leaves were unlike anything Cindy had seen before–and they sold out quickly. Cindy ultimately reached out to him for more artwork and, over time, developed a relationship. After a long correspondence and several visits with him, Cindy and her husband, Keith, came to love Ken and now consider him another son. He considers them his parents and uses their last name, calling himself Ken Sanford.

Letters to a Lifer is a collaboration between Cindy and Ken. Cindy tells of her personal growth around transformation and Ken writes about his maturation in prison.

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