Trevor Saller - 13 years for Marijuana


DOB: 11/18/1989
LOCATED AT: Algoa Correctional Center

Trevor is sentenced to 13 years without the possibility of parole, has served 8. The statute that he was sentenced to was repealed in 2017. The Mo Supreme Court has determined that there is no retroactive relief for the inmates sentenced under that statute. He has a pending clemency.

He desperately wants to get home and help his family care for his grandparents, whose health is rapidly deteriorating.

Trevor and approx. 100 other individuals have been left behind in the Judicial cracks with law changes that should have set them free. Here is the great mind sitting in wait for justice and freedom....

Eight long years ago, I stood in front of a judge in Warrenton, MO and was sentenced to a 13 year term of imprisonment to be served without the possibility of parole. My crime was not assault with a deadly weapon or armed robbery - it was possession of marijuana. The eleventh hour plea bargain executed was hastily formulated, moments previous, in a hallway outside the courtroom - agreed upon by me in the face of the judge's explicit willingness paired with the State's sincere threat to lock me in prison for the rest of my life.

I was 22 years old. That was business as usual, back then.

Since that fateful day nearly a decade ago, the world has changed much. Refrigerators have tablets attached to their doors. Homes and their utilities are administrated by occupants through the internet. A reality television star is the President. Tweets are considered press releases. Vehicles drive and park themselves. People interact through social media more than in person. Society is arguably more polarized and divided along political lines than it ever has been.

In the realm of criminal justice the conscience of America has evolved. With nonviolent drug offenses we are in agreement, and the people and legislators are in favor of harm mitigation, treatment, and community based rehabilitative options as opposed to harsh prison sentences. The opioid epidemic affected the sons and daughters of a majority of society. Judges' and politicians' children struggled with addiction. The incredibly personal nature of my generation's greatest public health issue took what was a crime worthy of prison time at the end of the 20th century and transformed it into a 21st century substance abuse disorder.

Caught in the transitional period were cases like mine. I was an honor student and three-sport athlete who was expelled from Washington High within a month of prom and graduation because of a negligible amount of pot seeds and stems found on the floorboard of my vehicle, parked on school grounds. For college prep, I had a full schedule. The school's expulsion policy had all my A's turned to F's. "Zero Tolerance" laws robbed me of a hard-earned 3.8 GPA and a promising future because I smoked marijuana and couldn't pass a drug test. With my athletic and scholarly routines interrupted, the downward spiral began.

I amassed a criminal record that is entirely nonviolent and drug related. At 19, I was afforded my first opportunity at drug treatment through Franklin County's Drug Court. I stopped using drugs for the first time in 3 years and participated in earnest for 9 months, achieving great personal achievements and making my family proud again. Unfortunately, my youthful transgressions manifested too many technical violations and Judge Woods terminated my program unsuccessfully.

In 2012, I was committed to MODOC as a 22 year old, untreated addict and shadow of my former self. To say the weight of a decade's imprisonment at such a young age was heavy would be my life's greatest understatement. How does getting arrested with drugs - sometimes just residual amounts - lead to such terrible consequences? How do I possibly survive this? And if by some miracle I do make it through, who will I be at the end?

Family is the most important thing in this world. Through this horrible experience, the love and support I've benefited from my entire life never waned. In the darkest dungeons and under the immense weight of consequence and circumstance, I've never felt alone. I am blessed and owe my family the best version of myself.

Maximum security prisons are no place for drug offenders, but Missouri's policies still place them there. They are violent places where inmates own other human beings, assaults and weapons are currency, and drug use is rampant. Prison society has an inherent learning curve with severe consequences for improper assimilation. "Success" in such a climate is relative and subjective.

My first 3 years were spent in maximum security. Coming from a privileged background (relative to most of my new peers) and more of a young man with a drug problem than a hardened criminal, I seemed to learn everything the hard way. I fell for every trap and had to fight too often.

Yet, in the chaos and maelstrom I found a path forward. I built a portfolio of certificates from institutional classes. I joined the NAACP - the only political organization inmates are allowed to join - and became a Founding Father of the NAACP 44AC Prison Chapter at South Central Correctional Center. Although the racially segregated nature of prison society created obstacles, I used the organization as a vehicle for my personal inspiration by establishing and chairing the Nonviolent Offenses Committee, reigniting my interests in political news and processes, writing and performing speeches to large populations of inmates, and networking my efforts with political figures in the free world. From inside prison fences, I learned how to successfully operate within a political organization.

Additionally, I learned the importance of routine to successful living. Systematically stripped of the most basic opportunities and decisions, I micro-managed my life into a version of success. Personal fitness became paramount. I found a form of escape inside my music paired with physical exertion. I made goals and exceeded them. I scheduled my days and held myself accountable.

Drug use had distanced me from my family. I reconnected with them, presenting a more complete version of myself than they'd ever known. I stayed present in their lives through letters, phone calls, and visits. I'm a better son, grandson, brother, and uncle than I ever would have been previously, despite my circumstances. I understand love and appreciation. I'm a presence in family life today, and of greater consequence. I take on family responsibility - such a strange contradiction and wonderful accomplishment, since I'm physically in prison.

The hard lessons I learned at SCCC have guided my journey and decisions through the lower security camps, for better or worse. I've had my ups and downs but I continue to stay focused on my goal: to be the best version of myself that my family deserves, and to make it home to lead a life of accomplishment. I want to make those who have loved and supported me proud, to be part of their solutions as opposed to being a problem, and to be an example for my nephews and the children I'll one day have. I want to recapture the version of myself who was once a "golden child" and transform him into an exceptional man.

In my young life prior to incarceration, my hard work was limited to school and athletics. Everything else was handed to me by my loving family in hopes that the blessings would be a springboard to accomplishment. Through this difficult experience, I've learned the value of goals, values, and hard work. I've made plans, attacked them with persistent personal effort, and reaped the rewards. I've learned to apply principles to my lifestyle for great effect. In real world application, I've held prison jobs successfully in multiple areas and even participated in outside clearance work release programs.

One of the biggest misconceptions that free folks have about inmate life is that we have all the free time in the world, sitting in cells and twiddling our thumbs and being unproductive. Some people choose to live that way. Personally, I wouldn't be able to do that for the extended years that I've been here. I've been truly LIVING, behind these walls - possibly even more so than I was in the free world.

I've felt the pain of deprivation - the struggle of becoming acclimated to such an unenriching existence - and made the conscious decision to become more complete in spite of it. As a coping mechanism it was necessary to feel and move beyond, rather than hide from, the pain. I've assessed my values and motivations and made them more righteous, time and time again. I've found healthy outlets for my pain. I've committed myself to finding who I really am and making him someone I'm proud to present to the world. I've found unmitigated joy and happiness from within, through personal growth - even inside these dark places.

As a pragmatist, I understand that the world won't be all sunshine and lollipops just because I've been paroled. I still have hereditary substance abuse issues that I will grapple with my entire life. Most likely, there are also underlying hereditary mental health disorders that have gone largely undiagnosed in myself. There are definitely mental health issues, manifested by years of continued incarceration, that I will struggle with upon my release to society. I plan to be proactive in all these instances by seeking professional help from psychotherapists and counselors, following the mandates of my parole officers, and remaining accountable to myself and my loved ones. I also plan to carry my ordinary routines from inside these fences to out there in the real world, to as great a degree as possible, in order to continue exercising as much control on my own life as I can.

Recent legal challenges and battles seemed to have set a course for my early release. The Missouri Legislature passed laws reflecting public sentiment that were supposed to allow for the possibility of parole in cases like mine. My family's high hopes for justice were dashed by a MO Supreme Court decision against Dimetrious Woods in February. Three years of attorneys, court hearings, and promises yielded no positive results and created an emotional rollercoaster for my loved ones and I.

And yet we persist, anchored by our faith in my convictions and strength of character. In 24 months time (if not sooner, in a just world), I will be released to the loving arms of my family and community. And the version of myself they will be welcoming home is much improved from the young man without direction who left them. I'm decisive, confident in my abilities, informed of my personal limitations, more wary than the bright-eyed youngster of years past. I have a much more intimate understanding of how the world works and where I fit. I have goals that I'm driven to accomplish and I know how short the critical time to act can be. I have a much greater understanding of what's truly important in life and how to spend quality time wisely. I practice the constant reevaluation of goals and motivations and live with purpose. I have lessons I've learned, through hard-fought experience, that I'm excited to pass on to my nephews and the world. I am a fount of endless possibility and optimism, a burning lantern of enthusiasm and joy, tempered with practicality, for my loved ones and anyone else to follow - straight to accomplishment and vindication.

My name is Trevor Saller. At one point in my life, I was a gifted student athlete with a bright future but no sense of direction or purpose. I fell victim to my own demons and was a casualty in The War on Drugs. I went to prison on a marijuana case and served longer than most violent criminals. Through pain, adversity, and difficult experiences - and with the love and support of my family - I found myself again. With purpose, an honest perspective, and hard work, I've constructed who I found into more than I believe I could have ever previously been. And I anxiously await the opportunity to be welcomed back to your community to share my experience and efforts, be a productive member of society, and lift others toward their true potentials. Where others have failed, I must and shall succeed, for my victories are not my own. I owe them to those who held up the lesser, broken version of myself so I could grow into the man I am today.


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