By Fletcher Word
Ralph Warren has certainly hit his stride. After 27 years behind bars, after being released in 2017, Warren has adapted well to his life of freedom – an author, a mental health professional, a recent college graduate – and has committed himself to “helping individuals reach their full potential as human beings.”
Warren began his prison term in October 1989 after being sentenced in federal court to two life sentences without the possibility of parole. Part of a criminal conspiracy, Warren’s case included four of his brothers, along with several other conspirators. Eventually one life sentence was overturned and the other reduced, enabling him the possibility of freedom at some 27 years later.
Those 27 years – “27 and a half,” he corrects a listener – were not wasted by any means. He used his time to write, to obtain four diplomas as a paralegal, to obtain a GED, to become fluent in Spanish, to start writing novels and screenplays, to work on the legal cases for hundreds of fellow inmates.
He has now completed five novels and five screenplays.
Warren, a Toledo native and graduate of Scott High School, continued his education after he gained his freedom. This May, he says, he graduated from the University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree, completing his individual study course work with an emphasis on social work. During his college career, he adds, he received only two “B’s” – to mar an otherwise perfect group of “A’s.”
His main calling is his work in the fields of re-entry assistance, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and mental health counseling, all interrelated, he says.
“I really love the field, mental health is such a big issue and so many are not seeking treatment,” he says.
These days, in the shadow of a pandemic and a nation, and Toledo, plagued by a sharp rise in violence and homicides, Warren’s work among those with mental health issues is especially critical.
“Isolation does put a strain on your psyche,” he says. “We are social creatures. Now, you are forced to stay in, you feel closed in, can’t do what you are used to, feel trapped, can’t mingle with friends and are not able to socialize. When you take that away, anger becomes a definite characteristic – with depression, anxiety and everything involves mental health when it comes to isolation.”
No more isolation for Ralph Warren. He’s not trapped or feeling isolated. He’s mingling, he’s working, he’s writing, he’s contributing. And society is the better for it.