Freedom after 30 years: first impressions and reflections

More Than Our Crimes
6 min readDec 23, 2020

For Anthony “Pete” Petty, 2020 is both the best and worst year

By Pam Bailey

Holidays in general are rather meaningless in prison, but New Year’s eve packs a particularly painful punch, says Anthony “Pete” Petty. “It’s like, ‘man, it’s another year that I’m here.’ For other people, it’s a fresh start. But for guys inside, it is…more of the same.”

Except this time. This will be the first new year Pete will “ring in” from the free world in 30 years. What excites him the most as he looks forward?

“The unknown. The fact that I don’t know what the new year holds,” smiles Pete. “In prison, I knew exactly what each day would be like, for the next year and the year after that. I had a routine, and I did the same thing over and over, over and over. Now, it’s all up to me.”

Sightseeing in D.C.

That’s both a joy, and a little overwhelming. In fact, “overwhelming” is the adjective he uses to describe his exit from the D.C. jail December 11 into a frigid cold night and the arms of family and friends.

“I was incarcerated in a closed environment for so long; that’s all I knew. I came into jail when I was a kid. I lived in project housing with no bills or taxes to pay. Now, leaving jail as an adult, I knew I was going to have to deal with a lot of things — getting a job, a car, helping my family instead of them helping me all the time. Still, the joy of being able to walk out the door without handcuffs or shackles or belly chains on was priceless. I wanted to dance. I had told everybody I was going to dance and kiss the ground when I finally got out, but I forgot everything once it was real. So, it was like a… sort of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of feeling.”

More Than Our Crimes

Rob Barton has been incarcerated for 26 years. Pam Bailey is his collaborator/editor. Learn more at