Following four years in prison for a bank robbery conviction, Jon Ponder founded a Christian nonprofit organization aimed at providing job training, counseling, and mentorship to other inmates.
In response to his inspiring life story, President Donald Trump took the opportunity during this week’s Republican National Convention to issue Ponder a full pardon, as reported by Town Hall.
“We believe that each person is made by God for a purpose,” the president said during the televised ceremony, according to The New York Times. “I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream, and a great American dream it is.”
“The best chance to build a new life”
In the years since his release, Ponder has worked to help others, in large part through the organization he founded, Hope for Prisoners.
Trump, for his part, has frequently stressed the importance of criminal justice reform and has issued similar orders of clemency previously in his first term.
As for his connection to Ponder’s story, the two reportedly met at a National Day of Prayer ceremony in the White House’s Rose Garden in 2018. In a testament to the former inmate’s genuine life change, he attended the event with former FBI agent Richard Beasley — the same agent who arrested him in 2005.
Beasley and Ponder have reportedly struck a close friendship as they have worked together in an effort to raise awareness about the need for reforms.
“To improve the Las Vegas community”
In a statement formally announcing the pardon, the White House called Ponder “a source of inspiration for former inmates who desire to rebuild their lives when they leave prison.”
The Trump administration went on to cite “his contributions to improve the Las Vegas community, including his exemplary commitment to provide others with a better second chance” as evidence that Ponder deserves the clean slate.
The president previously acknowledged the challenges faced by former inmates — especially those convicted of non-violent crimes.
In 2018, he signed the First Step Act, a bill with bipartisan appeal that eliminated a “three-strikes” rule that led to extensive sentences for repeat offenders and expanded the discretion of judges when sentencing non-violent criminal cases.
It is clear that Ponder’s continued work on behalf of Americans with criminal convictions is in harmony with Trump’s efforts.