In a remarkable story of redemption and example of the healing power of God’s love and forgiveness, an ex-convict once sentenced to 500 years in jail is now spreading the word of the Lord and baptizing the prison population he used to live among. Furthermore, he has built a remarkable friendship with the judge who ordered his lock up.
As CBN News reported, Texas-native Ron Adkins received a 495-year prison sentence in 1997, after being found guilty of several home burglaries. The then 22-year-old received 99 years for each of the five counts on which he was charged and picked up an additional five-year sentence for possession of an unauthorized cell phone. A district judge at the time, Robert Newsom upheld Adkins conviction. Little did either man know, they would one day cross paths again.
With seemingly no hope of ever being a free man again, Adkins lashed out—joining a prison gang, racking up some 250 violations, and even ending up in solitary confinement for 13 years. He found himself alone and suicidal, but a worn-out Bible he had neglected for years ultimately became his saving grace.
“Half the pages were missing because I had been using it for rolling papers. I had been smoking cigarettes with Bible papers,” Adkins joked to CBN. “All that was left of the Bible was the New Testament.”
In reading those remaining pages, Adkins came to learn about God’s love and grace. He decided to quit the gang and instead join his prison’s Bible study group. He began taking ministry courses, and, after beginning to display “good behavior,” Adkins received surprise parole hearing, which was initially projected for 2095. In May 2015, Adkins was released from prison.
Once released, Adkins found a job continued to grow in his faith, sharing his powerful story with churches and criminal justice reform conferences. In doing so, he met his wife Dawn Knighton, a former felon turned Christian counselor. His return to church and faith also sparked another unexpected relationship—one with Newsom, the judge who presided over his case decades earlier.
“It dawned on me, I told pastor, ‘You know what? I think that’s the judge who sentenced me to five 99-year sentences,’” Adkins recalled of sitting in church one day listening to a guest speaker that happened to be Newsom.
The men were introduced soon after, and while the introduction was initially a little awkward, the two became fast friends, with the former felon telling CBN News that he never held a grudge against the judge.
“I never did go to prison. I never did do some of the things that Ron has done. But I’m a sinner saved by grace just like Ronnie is,” Newsom explained of the surprise friendship. “We’re brothers.”
Thanks to Newsom, Adkins now works with the local Hopkins County Sheriff’s Department to meet with inmates and share his redemption story. He and his wife have even baptized some of the prisoners and jail staff. Newsom believed the ministry has created a “mini-revival” in the community. Adkins, meanwhile, is just grateful for the second chance he has been given to rewrite his legacy and, through the mercy of God, the legacy of those he touches with his service.
“In the very place where I was sentenced to die in prison, God’s going to use us to bring dead things back to life,” Adkins told CBN News. “And that’s what he’s doing. In the jail, in the worship nights, in the prayer meetings: He’s just bringing dead things back to life.”