Wake up with a Smile

Join our newsletter

Man Sentenced To 100 Years In Prison Gets Early Release & Acceptance Into Top Tier Law School

prison law school

A man sentenced to 100 years in prison as a teen was determined to better himself. So he earned his college degree, got accepted into a top-tier law school, and earned an early release.

Bernard McKinley was arrested for a gang-related murder when he was 16. At 19, a judge said he would live his life in a maximum security prison. When he realized his family was drowning in legal fees he set out to earn a law degree hoping to one day represent himself. But he never imagined just how far he would get.

“I promised myself before I got out of that bus that no matter what the outcome was that, you know, I was just going to try to do better for myself. I knew that I wanted to better myself, and I did that,” he told ABC News.

While in prison, Bernard obtained his GED. Then got a spot in Northwestern’s Prison Education Program (PEP), which is the only program in the country that offers a top 10 university degree to incarcerated students.

After graduating with his bachelor’s, Bernard studied for the LSAT and applied to law school. He managed to get a spot in Northwestern’s program, which is a feat for anyone, especially someone in prison. The university only has a 4% acceptance rate.

The hard work continued to pay off when Bernard McKinley learned that his sentence was reduced to 25 years, and he became a free man in December 2023. Bernard will start classes this fall and become part of Northwestern Law School’s class of 2027.

“Just months ago, I was still behind prison bars, and not knowing exactly how the future of going to law school would turn out,” he told The Guardian. “So to be home and know I’m going to law school … is an amazing feeling.”

ABC News noted that Bernard was the first person to take the LSAT while in an Illinois prison. And he’s the first person in his family to go to college.

“My goal is to become a civil rights attorney and to also open up a non-profit legal clinic in the inner city of Chicago,” he told the publication.

Bernard noted that he takes full responsibility for what he did as a teenager, and he shared a message to others who have made similar choices.

“Allow your incarceration to be a time of self-transformation,” he said.

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.

Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.