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'Prison may be my fate'

August 12, 2007|By KAREN HANNA

The young punk doing life in the now-closed Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore had a chip on his shoulder, but Melvin "Gino" Powell said he has mellowed.

But he said he believes fewer prison newcomers are coming to the epiphany he had.

"After I had been locked up for six years, it dawned on me that this may be my fate. Prison may be my fate," said Powell, a convicted murderer who has spent more than half of his life behind bars.

After six years of behaving as a self-described "knucklehead," Powell said he realized his dream of returning home as the result of an appeal might never come about. So, he said, he focused on making an easier path of his hard time.

That meant staying out of trouble and getting involved in church, said Powell, the inmate pastor of the Repentant Thief Church at RCI.

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Court records show that Powell, 38, pleaded not guilty to all counts, including murder and robbery, in a case in the late 1980s. He was found guilty of murder, robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, burglary and theft.

During an interview in May in the visitors room at RCI, Powell, who was 17 at the time of the murder, said he served time at the state's maximum-security prison in Baltimore before being sent to RCI about 11 years ago.

At some point during an entire adulthood spent behind bars, Powell, who was 17 at the time of the murder, said he decided that the only change he can make might be from within.

"The only way that I can make a contribution in society may be through somebody else that maybe never had a father figure or a big brother figure," Powell said.

- Karen Hanna

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