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Harold's Story

The text below is a portion of the Petition to Terminate Harold Adams's 50-Year Old Life Sentence. Please sign today and share widely so we can achieve Harold's full freedom in 2022!

Harold Adams has served over 50-years of a life sentence, 31 years in prison and over 20-years on parole. He read, reflected, studied and began serving our community both inside and outside, in order to make the systemic change a reality, which his experience identified as necessary, i.e. social and economic justice for all. Doing the hard work continues to deepen his experiential understanding that there are two systems of justice one for the rich and powerful and another for the poor and abandoned. He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to community well-being, social, and economic justice. Therefore we believe his sentence should be terminated.



1947, Harlem New York, under “Jim Crow” America’s system of economic and racial apartheid, I was born into a family, fractured by what Dr. Joy DeGruy calls “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” (PTSS). My parents born (father 1918 ~ mother 1922) just 53 and 57 years, after the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) made slavery ille- gal, except for persons, such as myself, convicted of crime. I was falsely arrested, June 30, 1963 (my sixteenth birthday), brutally beaten, and repeatedly called “nigger” by cops, who charged me with assault. Although I was found not guilty, when the school - Arch Bishop Molloy High School - found out I’d been arrested I lost my basketball scholarship. At age 23 I was shot in the head and blinded in one eye by another PTSS victim. I suffered not only serious physical injury but more importantly a deep soul-sickness which caused me to shoot and kill another human being, who I thought was reaching for a gun, instead of the money I demanded to feed my heroin addiction. The warrant that committed me to prison, for this act, at age 24 reads: “maximum sentence death, minimum sentence life.” To date I’ve served over 50-years - 31 years in prison and over 20 years, without incident, under lifetime parole.

I took the advice “Don’t serve time, make time serve you.” to heart and taught myself skills useful for helping myself and community. As a jailhouse lawyer inside and paralegal outside I set legal-precedents before the Board of Immigration Appeals, Massachusetts Appeals, United States District and New York State Supreme Courts. The precedent in NY won release for a dying prisoner (John DiPaolo), this story made the NY Times. The DiPaolo precedent and the publicity it engendered factored prominently into the release 53 dying prisoners for Christmas 1987 by the NYC Department of Correction, and was reported in the NY Post. My legal efforts include in-court oral argument, reducing two 15-year sentences to 5 and 6 years respectively, dismissal of indictments and criminal complaints, obtaining life saving healthcare and over $100,000 in legal settlements for people who’d been physically injured.

As a community organizer I mobilized scores of volunteers by being a guest speaker, expert panelist, subject of media articles, interviews and books, as well as a published author myself. I helped organize free in-state and out-of-state family prison visits (including one airplane trip); logging over 1000s of volunteer driver hours, 100,000 miles (including one historic visit via airplane to PA), saving families and friends transportation costs; as well as free holiday toy and back to school supply distributions, and stopped family: home foreclosures, evictions, and utility shut-offs.

As a scholar I graduated in prison (summa cum laude) from Boston University I was nominated for 2001 academic-valedictorian (won runner-up because I was in prison), and helped many other prisoners get their college degrees. I taught myself mathematics and became the only person on parole in Massachusetts history to travel to Italy as an apprentice mathematician guest of NATO Advanced Studies Institute.

I’ve worked: 15-years as a paralegal, 11 years for a former Massachusetts Bar Association President , 4-years for the Former Executive Director of the Committee for Public Counsel services, and 2 years as Consultant, to the President of Prometheus Inc., a small woman-owned software research and engineering firm founded in 1983 that specializes in applied mathematics. I’ve survived three oral cancer surgeries (including lymph node removal); sixty weeks of chemotherapy (which caused aseptic meningitis [brain swelling]); twelve weeks of radiation (which caused the loss of most of my natural teeth); and suffered traumatic brain injury (due to car a accident) all while on parole. With the love of my partner, family, and community I continue to try to be the change I want to see!

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