‘I want my life to be an example of a success story’: Richmond man granted pardon, wants to inspire others
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It has been almost four months since Robert Green, known as Wize Shahid, walked out of Deep Meadow Correctional Facility following 22 years in prison. Today, he wants his life and how he has changed to save someone else’s life.
At 23 years old in 2000, Wize was arrested following a traffic stop. He says he was a passenger in a car that was pulled over. Wize ran from the officers, and an officer chased after him.
“In the process of throwing me to the ground, [the officer] scraped his knee - that is how the malicious wounding charge came about,” Wiz explained.
Originally from Halifax County, he was convicted of possession with intent to distribute, distribution of narcotics, possession of a firearm after a convicted felony, malicious wounding, felony escape, and credit card theft. Wize was sentenced to 39 years in prison.
He first petitioned for a pardon under former Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2016. A coalition formed to push for his release in the years that followed. The Exodus Foundation, founded by Richmond native Rev. Dr. Madeline McClenney, with co-chair Rev. Dr. Emanuel Harris, president of the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Richmond and Vicinity, continued to hold vigils and lead the ‘Save Robert Henry Green Coalition.
“They are like the best supporters I have ever seen,” said Wize.
While in prison, he completed dozens of programs, including re-entry programs, and says he has used his time to become a better person and help other inmates.
“With all of this that I have been doing in here to show I am an asset within the DOC, I see that my presence in society right now is most needed,” explained Wize during a phone interview with NBC12 in Dec. 2021. “Further holding me in here does not serve society. Society does not gain anything by me being in here another day, let alone another year.”
Wize created his own program, teaching weekly life and business classes and an “investing in community action” class.
On Aug. 30, 2021, Northam granted Wize a conditional pardon reducing his sentence by seven years, stating he has spent half of his life in prison, has demonstrated exemplary rehabilitation efforts, channeled his growth into mentoring, and taken full responsibility for his offenses.
The push continued for an immediate release for Wize. On Jan. 6, 2022, just days before former Governor Ralph Northam left office, Wize was released.
“I always had my sights set on I will get out one day. I am a very spiritual person. I see God within myself. That was always my inspiration, that was my strength, I always pulled from that strength,” he explained. “I knew the person I became, who I have become, deserved to get out, and eventually it would take place.”
Wize remembers being ecstatic when a DOC counselor called with the news that the conditional pardon had changed to a release.
“It’s a great feeling, those that’s still there, that have gone through their transition of change and turned their life around, they deserve that feeling too,” he said. “Who I was, I was a typical street guy, living that lifestyle and glorifying that lifestyle. Then through years of introspection, looking within myself, and practicing 5 percent teachings, it helped with my evolution. It is like a caterpillar to a butterfly. As a five percenter, [it] means I am a poor righteous teacher. With the 5 percent, our thing is mentor children. Children who were like I was, to be a guide and example to say, ‘you don’t want to go down this path.’”
He continues to teach, even going back to the Deep Meadow Correctional Center to speak to current inmates in the re-entry program and set to be released soon.
“That was surreal. I knew that day would come, but I didn’t know it would be that fast to be coming back to speak to guys I just left from. They were excited,” he said. “[My advice] pay attention to your thinking. If you can pay attention to your thoughts, you can prevent a lot of things that could be negative.”
The last few months have brought reunions with family members, a new and flourishing relationship for Wize, and the opportunity to share his story through a book.
“While I was in there, I wrote this book,” Wize explained. “With the help of those who are a part of my support team, I was able to get it published real quick. It’s like my life story, ‘My Life as a Five Percenter,’ basically a memoir.”
While he says technology has changed in the last 22 years, some issues remain the same, and he wants to see and be a part of a change.
“I would say the biggest challenge is constantly hearing about the murder rate, young individuals getting killed in the City of Richmond. I think that is one of the hardest things because life is being cut short, and I don’t think enough is being done to address these situations before they happen,” he explained. ”Emphasis needs to be put on community development - you got to work to get to the root of it; we’re dealing with humanity.”
Wize plans to continue teaching, mentoring and wants to see more people released from prison and given an opportunity to show they can contribute to their community.
“We’ve embarked on a journey of a century of mass clemency, to bring mass folks out, because we have mass incarceration,” Wize said.
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