Ricky Olds: 37 Years of Injustice

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Raised by 20 people in 5 months
The Backstory

In 1979, 14- year old Ricky Olds was enjoying a night with two older friends in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The friends stopped at a store to grab a snack and upon exiting the store, Ricky saw that his friend was in an altercation with a stranger and that his friend had a firearm. Ricky ran down the block to get away from the situation, and as he was running away, he heard a gunshot.  The stranger was killed and Ricky's life was changed forever.

At the age of 14, Ricky was in the wrong place at the wrong time and did what most children would do. He ran to safety, away from the violence.

Due to Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws in 1979, Ricky was charged with second degree murder based on the fact that he arrived to the store with his friend that was involved int he altercation. Despite a witness testifying that Ricky was not at the scene when the shots were fired, Ricky was sentenced to life without parole at the age of 14. Since there was not a juvenile penal system at the time, Ricky was sent to adult prison. 

Decades later, Ricky received a glimmer of hope in 2012 when the United States Supreme Court ruled that life without parole for a minor was “cruel and unusual” punishment".  Four years later, in 2016, Ricky was re-sentenced and released with time served. Ricky served 37 years in prison and was now free to begin his life.

Loss of a Lifetime

Ricky entered prison as a 14-year old boy and as a 51-year old man he was finally free. He spent 37 years in an adult prison because he spent a night out in Pittsburgh with the wrong friends and tried to run to safety when he sensed trouble. He did not have the opportunity to enjoy life as a teenager or young adult, nor the chance to start a career or family of his own. Now free at the age of 51, he is suddenly faced with trying to make a life for himself.  The majority of his life experiences have been limited to those from inside a prison.  Picture yourself as a 14-year old kid and then imagine having to spend the next 37 years of your life in prison, for something you weren't responsible for. 

Beyond the obvious loss of 37 years of Ricky’s freedom, Ricky was limited in opportunities to take classes while in prison due to restrictions for prisoners with life sentences. While others his age were able to attend college and begin to build careers, Ricky did not have these options. Upon being released from prison, Ricky had to start from square one.

Ricky in 2018

Ricky is currently enrolled at CCAC and taking classes with the goal of getting a degree in social work to help others and make an impact on society. Additionally, Ricky gives speeches for the ACLU and Abolitionist Society to help raise awareness of the injustices in the American justice system.

Despite being released from prison, Ricky still has a second-degree murder charge on his record and finding work has not been easy.  Even though he served 37 years for this charge, employers do not always take that into consideration and often do not give him a chance to explain his situation.

I worked every day with Ricky for the past month at a temporary campaign canvassing job for the 2018 election.  He is one of the most kindhearted and positive people that I have known.  Ricky does not want to dwell on the past, he has a positive attitude and is a hard worker. After getting to know Ricky, I was shocked to find out about his history of being in prison for 37 years. It would be understandable if Ricky was bitter or had negative feelings due to the unjust treatment that he experienced, however, Ricky is just the opposite.  He is friendly to others, very empathetic, grateful for what he has, and appreciates every moment of each day.  Ricky is only looking for a chance to start living his new life at the age 53.

How You Can Help

Donations are being accepted to help Ricky get back on his feet and begin a new life. The funds will be used to help pay for Ricky’s educational expenses so he can help others and improve society. The funds will also be used to help pay for a place of his own. Currently, Ricky's living situation is uncertain and he moves between friends' and family's houses.  

The current goal is $10,000, to be used to help with his expenses over the next year.  Ricky was very hesitant to take this approach because he wants to succeed on his own.  However, he was convinced that this is temporary assistance aimed at helping him achieve his long-term goals. I know that Ricky would be extremely grateful and humbled by any amount that you are able to contribute.  

I am starting this page with a gift to Ricky, and I hope that you can help Ricky achieve a meaningful second chance at life.  Thank you for your support and please share with other kind and caring individuals who may be able to help!!!

Additional information about Ricky Olds and the details of his case can be found in the posted Youtube video or the Vice News article linked below:

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Raised by 20 people in 5 months
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