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Charlottesville man granted second chance builds viral following on message of change

jesse crosson ralph northam
Gov. Ralph Northam and Jesse Crosson. Photo courtesy Jesse Crosson.

The Tik Tok app may be best known as a platform for talking cats and silly pranks, but one man recently granted a conditional pardon by Gov. Ralph Northam is using it to spread a serious message of personal transformation and criminal justice reform.

With more than 300,000 Tik Tok followers and millions of likes collected in the four months since his release from prison, Jesse Crosson’s wisdom earned over 19 years of incarceration has gone viral under the handle @second_chancer.

“This isn’t about politics or sides; it’s about protecting public safety by making sure people coming out of prison have the tools they need to succeed and not reoffend,” said Crosson, who was convicted of robbery and unlawful wounding just after his 18th birthday in 2002.

Crosson, who committed his crimes during a period of active drug addiction, was sentenced to 32 years in prison, twice the high point of the sentencing guidelines. In August, Northam granted Crosson a conditional pardon based on the excessive sentence, his age at the time of the crime, and his accomplishments while incarcerated.

Those accomplishments include earning a college degree in psychology, teaching Spanish, mentoring, volunteering in a mental health treatment pod, and developing a meditation practice to which he credits his recovery from cocaine and alcohol abuse.

Crosson’s Tik Tok videos cover a range of topics relating to his prison experience and criminal justice reform including the use of solitary confinement as a punishment, the lack of access to mental health care, and the power of meditation to facilitate change. The videos have sparked online conversations between those who have perpetrated crimes, law enforcement officers, and victims of violent crime.

“This is the conversation we need to have to prevent future crimes and make society safer,” Crosson said.

In addition to his Tik Tok account, Crosson is the co-creator of the Pri-Zen podcast and is currently working on a book about his transformation behind bars.

Crosson is one of the more than 600 people to receive some sort of pardon from Northam. This will be his first holiday spent with family in 19 years, and he intends to use his second chance to promote changes in the criminal justice system that will prioritize accountability, rehabilitation and public safety.

augusta free press
augusta free press