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Formerly Incarcerated Individual Makes Positive Changes

December 23, 2020

By Rachel Ericson

DOC Communications

Bride and Groom posing for a photo while kissing and under an umbrella while its raining

Keenan Peterson is now no longer on supervision, has been working full time for five years, has completed a college degree and is happily married. (Photographer Unknown)

Washington State Department of Corrections is committed to our community – understanding individuals, instilling hope, embracing change and providing opportunities.

Corrections has opportunities ranging from family and relationship programs, learning and working programs, religious, spiritual & cultural programs and therapeutic and support programs.

For these programs to be successful, individuals whether incarcerated in a state facility, or in the community under the jurisdiction of the department, must put in sincere effort for these program opportunities to prove successful.

Robert Colley, a Risk Assessment Supervisor with the Department of Corrections, says one such individual, Keenan Peterson, has taken big steps to prove that individuals can turn their lives around and see positive change, despite their past.

Peterson was arrested for the first time when he was just fifteen years old. He was placed under the supervision of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services' Juvenile Rehabilitation (now the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families), where Colley worked at the time.

“I was an aggressive kid,” Peterson said. “I was sentenced to 80-100 weeks as my first long sentence. I got into a fight that added more time to my sentence as a juvenile, and before I knew it I was 18, being transferred to the adult system.”

A month after transferring to the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Peterson was charged for another fight.

“At that point, I realized I was never going to get out...and I was okay with that,” said Peterson.

But, one day, he says, he woke up and decided to make a change. He focused on a number of ways to start making successful changes; physical fitness, self-help books, and he says he dedicated himself to becoming a better person.

Peterson went on to complete the Alternatives to Aggression (A2A) class at the Penitentiary as part of a pro-social approach to ensuring incarcerated individuals have a chance to learn how to appropriately approach conflict.

When Peterson released from prison, he was 24 years old, had no job history and had essentially grown up in a custodial setting. After two days, he found full time employment, and has since made impressive strides in moving forward with his life.

He is now no longer on supervision, has been working full-time for five years, has completed a college degree and is happily married.

Recently, Peterson reached out to Colley, sharing his successes and thanking him for the impact Colley had on him.

Colley says he, like so many who work in a custody setting, often worked various shifts, with odd days off. He spent many years frequently unable to see his wife and kids, occasionally having to use annual leave just to have a weekend with his family. This created the foundation for Colley to be able to transition to the Department of Corrections and move forward in his career, but often he wondered if some of the personal sacrifices he made were worth it.

After speaking with Peterson, Colley understood, even though it was hard to see at the time, all of his hard work truly did make a difference.

“These positive changes are a tribute to Keenan deciding he wanted a better life,” Colley said. “But a message like this, saying I made a difference, he’ll never know how much that meant to me.”