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Inmate granted Compassionate Release during COVID pandemic after 16 years in prison

“To be quite frank with you, it is very hard to put into words. I can tell you. It is good to be a free man after 16-years,” said Belay Reddick.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In April, Local 24 News Reporter Brittani Moncrease introduced us to Belay Reddick.

He was an inmate at the Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex hoping to receive Compassionate Release due to the pandemic.

Thursday, Brittani spoke with Mr. Reddick again. This time, he had quite the update.

Many inmates across the country have applied for Compassionate Release or home confinement. For some, being in prison during a pandemic is more of a health risk than being free.

That was the argument for Belay Reddick, a nonviolent offender in prison in Forrest City, Arkansas.

For years, the Forrest City Correctional Complex bars have been Belay Reddick's norm. Now, they are an image of his past. 

“To be quite frank with you, it is very hard to put into words. I can tell you. It is good to be a free man after 16-years,” said Reddick, a former inmate at the facility.

Reddick's initial release date was October 5, 2021. He is 51-years-old with pre-existing health issues, so he filed a motion for Compassionate Release in February, fearing that he was more at risk in prison with the pandemic than outside. 

“Although I was pessimistic, I was still optimistic at the same time, hoping that this would be it,” said Reddick.

At that time, the Forrest City prison was among the highest in the country with COVID cases. The numbers have since dropped.

“My legal team contacted me and explained to me that the court had granted my motion for compassionate release based on extraordinary and compelling reasons, which had to do with the COVID-19 concern,” said Reddick.

He was also involved in mentoring programs, hosted events, and wrote two books. 

“The judge stated that he has never witnessed an inmate who has such a long history of rehabilitation through the type of programs I was able to coordinate in prison,” said Reddick.

After the order came down, Reddick was put in a 14-day quarantine for his own health and that of the outside community. As of 7:30 a.m. July 30th, he was free.

“The first thing I want to do is I want to get a good breakfast because I haven’t had a good breakfast in a long time. I’m debating. I’m like a little kid. I don’t know where I want to get breakfast from. It’s just exciting to me to be able to have options,” said Reddick. “I’m going to spend some time in Memphis. It’ll be just my me time. I want to get a chance to visit some of the historical sites.”

Before moving into his next chapter, Reddick offered some words of encouragement.

“Rehabilitation is something you have to work very hard at. It’s not something that happens overnight, but it’s something that is possible. You just have to keep that determination spirit and have that tenacity that nothing is going to stop you from turning your life around and making it a whole lot better for you and for others that you come across with,” said Reddick.

He said he has a job waiting for him in Dallas. That is where he’ll be heading after the weekend.

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