Kevin Keith’s death sentence was commuted to life without parole on September 2, 2010. As of today, due to his programming and excellent behavior, his prison security level has been lowered to the lowest possible level.
Kevin grew up in Crestline, Ohio with his siblings and their mother, Ruth. When Kevin was 10, his family moved to Canton, Ohio. He played football for Trinity Christian and helped take the team to the 1981 state championship. As a young adult, Kevin began dealing drugs to get by. Eventually, this is what the State claimed was “motive” for the Bucyrus murders.
Despite spending the last 28 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Kevin is called by his deeply held faith to be a force for good. Early on, he vowed to help the next generation of young men both recognize their worth and hold themselves accountable.
Kevin is a mentor and leader in his community.
Philanthropy and Mentorship in Prison
Kevin began attending church immediately upon transfer to Trumbull Correctional Institution (TCI). He joined Toastmasters, a public speaking program with a focus on respect and integrity, and very soon became the President. He learned early on that he could be a leader for change and a source of positivity. This is a small fraction of what he has accomplished.
Kevin started his own program called “WordMasters,” operating under the prison chaplain at TCI, “to enhance the oratorical and communication skills of the believing Christian in a public forum by utilizing biblical principles and ethics.” It began with twelve members and is now in at least four separate institutions, only two of them being institutions in which Kevin has served time. WordMasters now has bylaws, a membership agreement, and a speech log and guide.
Kevin wanted to use WordMasters to help those in need, so he contacted Sister Jerome’s Poor to offer services and described a proposal to assist the poor. After WordMasters was approved to fundraise, the members helped to knit and provide 250 woolen hats for the homeless and poor and provided them to Sister Jerome’s Poor. They also donated plants to help fight hunger.
Image 1: Kevin presenting at Wordmasters, Image 2: Kevin with nuns from Sister Jerome’s Poor Ursuline Center, Image 3: Letter from Sister Jerome Corcoran thanking Kevin for his charity work
WordMasters started Christian counseling for the TCI inmates, with Kevin bringing in retired psychologist Rev. Thomas McFarren. The letter from Rev. McFarren to Kevin demonstrates he also was moved by the experience. By May 22, 2014, Rev. McFarren had counseled approximately 45 inmates and spent 120 hours at the prison.
Rev. McFarren is one of the many who is urging the parole board and Governor to release Kevin from prison.
Kevin also began the WordMasters 3B Renewal Outreach Program with Minister Anthony D. Blackmon Sr. to teach inmates a foundation to be a positive, productive member of their community to help them upon release.
Elder Anthony D. Blackmon, Sr. is another person who is advocating for Kevin’s release, despite having no knowledge of Kevin’s innocence and acting only on the great work he has seen from Kevin while in prison.
Kevin brought in and honored Judge Nathaniel Jones, a retired judge from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, as a part of Black History Month.
He also is very active in the Kairos Prison Ministry and Torch youth mentoring programs, hosting groups, giving speeches, acting in plays, and mentoring/leading.
Kevin eventually ran other programs with a similar topic and goal, such as Boyhood 2 Manhood. That program—which has several graduates/alumni and is ongoing—focuses on respect for authority, responsibility, mental health and meditation, spiritual wellness, and physical health. It is a nine-week course that concludes with a “Rites of Passage” ceremony and graduation. One inmate described that Boyhood 2 Manhood “taught me that I was wearing a mask hiding my true self.”
Kevin began working as a Program Assistant for the Recovery Services Department, where he created events designed to encourage more people of color to join the recovery program and worked with individuals to overcome substance abuse.
Kevin has had an immensely positive impact on numerous inmates. Here are just a few of the things they’ve said about Kevin:
- “Kevin Keith created a program that gave guys the opportunity to minister to preach and it has changed many lives and as of now the program is in many other prisons here in Ohio and I’m sure its not going to just stop here in Ohio.”
- “Mr. Keith is a faithful mentor, supporter of the Hispanic community and continues to support and encourage myself and others. I observe how Mr. Keith approaches a situation and apply those qualities to my commitment/responsibilities.”
- “Mr. Keith was the calm in the storm for a lot of us. Listening to us vent and fume about the lockdown, and giving the best advice he could to us individually, and as a group.”
- “Mr. Keith has a heart for the younger generation of prisoners and does everything he can to reach out to them.”
- “No matter the race he talks to all the younger men like we’re his own children and Mr. Keith reminds us how important it is to stay positive from this point on because our situation is temporary so we have to do right.”
- “I find Kevin Keith to be a positive role model. He is a very fascinating person by watching how he interacts with his fellow peer groups and staff.”
- “[WordMasters] has helped me with my reading, writing, spelling, communication, my thinking, and most of all my anxiety.”
- “When I met Mr. Keith I was an active addict and a recovering racist. It would be an exaggeration if I said that my current sobriety and success was 100% because of Mr. Keith, but he is the one who placed me on this path.”
- “I’m proud to share that I participated in the Boyhood to Manhood program I came to realize that boys can be selfish thinking only of themselves. When a true man takes on his responsibilities as a father. I really see Mr. Keith as a mentor and go to him whenever I need help or have questions about anything I’m concerned with.”