Bobby Stanley has been in prison for decades but for the past 12 years or so, he’s been there solely as a visitor.
Twice a week, the Tallahassee man has visited prisons to help the inmates. He works with Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based program that helps people recover from all types of problems.
“Helping people, man, it just does something to me,” the 60-year-old man said.
Before that, Stanley spent 28 years behind bars for first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. He participated in Celebrate Recovery as a prisoner and said it helped him begin to think of a future outside of prison.
Part of his personal recovery was to admit his past transgressions, he explained. “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there”.
His own experiences have helped him help others.
When Stanley gets a Celebrate Recovery group together within the prison, he just lets them vent. He has been through all the same problems, and he is a light of hope for many inmates.
"A lot of guys that see me, they know how much time I had," he said. "You know, it’s like they seeing a ghost when they see me come back."
Stanley said he believes it helps the inmates to see what they could make of themselves, and that if they have someone to talk to, it could help keep them out of the system.
The road to prison began when Stanley was young. He started drinking at the age of 12, and it was this habit that eventually got him into trouble. He compared himself to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when he drank.
He dropped out of school in the ninth grade. For the next four years, he worked for his dad doing lawn care.
At 18 years old he was arrested and sentenced to three life sentences for his crimes.
Even though he was incarcerated, Stanley made the most of his time. He was able to earn his GED while at Sumter Correctional Institution. He also learned two vocational trades.
Getting his GED made him and his parents extremely proud. He sent his GED home to his parents, who proudly framed it on their wall.
Although Stanley received three life sentences, he finally got out on parole on July 13, 2004.
He walked through the prison gates, he said, and “fell to my knees and kissed the ground, and said thank you, Jesus.” Then he hugged his mother, two brothers and sister.
Once Stanley was out, he was required to attend two A.A. meetings twice a week for parole. Even after he was done with the required meetings, he continued to attend.
After being released from prison, he has worked for his brother’s transportation company working maintenance. He joined the ministry through Celebrate Recovery. He also has a fiancé.
After four years of being out, he was approved to take Celebrate Recovery back into the prisons.
Since then, he has won volunteer of the year from Gulf Correctional Institution and minister of the year from Celebrate Recovery.