On October 8, 1992, 15-year-old Jeremy Drake was killed by two of his friends, one of whom was 17-year-old Jeremy Herman. Herman pled guilty to kidnapping and was sentenced to life in prison.

A year and a half after Drake’s death, Mona Schlautman, his mother, told Herman at his sentencing that she forgave him. “I was angry and I was upset, but just because of my own personal spiritual growth, I knew right away I needed to forgive – if not for him, for my own sake,” she said.

After some initial difficulties getting in contact, Herman and Mona connected and began exchanging letters in 2004. Mona met with Herman in 2005, and they continued communicating by letters and phone calls. Mona observed firsthand Herman’s growth and progress. He went from a deeply-troubled high school dropout to someone Mona regards as a well-read and intelligent man. “He wrote me beautiful letters, repeatedly expressing his sorrow…”

Mona believes all youth should have a chance at parole and supported Herman’s release. She even testified before the Pardons Board several times in support of a reduction in Herman’s sentence. Ultimately, Herman’s original life-without-parole sentence was reduced to 40 years in prison. When Herman was released early in 2012 for good behavior, Mona was there to greet him.

Mona said she believed “he needed a chance at life. I couldn’t discount what he had done, but he deserved a chance.” She says she “got a sense of joy out of helping” Herman, and that she chose to live her life with that mindset rather than the mindset of bitterness and anger. While Mona readily admits that the wounds of losing her son have never healed, she also believes that her own pain does not justify keeping Herman in jail for the rest of his life. Mona believes that all children should receive a second chance at life like Herman if they show they can be responsible moral citizens.