Alpha Phi Sigma and Criminal Justice Club host restorative justice speaker

David Garlock, a former inmate of Alabama state prison, came to Seton Hill University to talk to criminal justice majors about restorative justice. Photo by S.Dumnich/Setonian.

“Somebody can make a bad decision and that doesn’t make them a bad individual,” said David Garlock, who spent 13 1/2 years in an Alabama state prison.

Seton Hill University’s Criminal Justice Club and Alpha Phi Sigma hosted an event where students had the opportunity to listen to the story of how Garlock has transformed his life since being incarcerated. Since he started guest speaking, SHU is the 18th university Garlock has visited.

“By hosting events we hope to get others involved to better understand what the criminal justice major is as a whole and bringing people here with different backgrounds,” said Aliyah Good, president of the Criminal Justice Club at SHU. “We are just trying to get more people to understand what criminal justice does for the community.”

Garlock broke down his life into chapters. The first chapter of Garlock’s presentation was on dysfunction and abuse. Garlock was 11 years old when he and his brother were victims of sexual and physical abuse. The two brothers dealt with the abuse until the ages of 19 and 22.

In June of 1999 in Alabama, after years of abuse, Garlock and his brother took the life of the man who put them through the traumatic experience. Garlock turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the murder. The body was found four months later and Garlock was charged with murder.

Since spending time in prison, Garlock stated that he and his brother do not talk often, as “talking with him will often bring up the memories of what we went through back then.”

Guest speaker David Garlock, a criminal justice major, walked the audience through seven chapters of his life. During the presentation, Garlock introduced the second chapter of his: freedom. Photo by S.Dumnich/Setonian.

The next chapter Garlock walked the audience through was about freedom. Garlock spent time in four different prisons in Alabama. While in prison, Garlock said that he turned to God. During the time he spent in his cell, Garlock would often partake in reading and reciting a tiny Bible he had.

“I had a guy who walked up and punched me and right after I went to my bed and prayed,” Garlock said. “Hours later that same guy came up to me and apologized because he knew what I stood for. It was all a respect thing.”

The presentation moved forward as Garlock introduced the next chapter of his life, “preparing for my future.” Garlock’s time in prison went unnoticed as his earned his GED, drafting trade and took classes toward a master’s degree in theology. The next step forward for Garlock was going to behavior classes which taught him how to become a better individual and citizen.

During the time he spent incarcerated, Garlock went through a transformation process, leading him into talking about his next chapter, giving back. While he had done time in four different prisons, Garlock also was teaching GED classes to other inmates.

“It’s all about giving back and being able to provide that support for people, the impact of it all and the memories of those men are priceless,” Garlock said.

The next chapter in the program was about Equal Justice Initiative. Garlock talked about the non-profit organization from Montgomery, Al. and how they have helped him shape his own life. EJI was founded in 1994 by Bryan Stevenson. Garlock and Stevenson teamed up to tell the story of how one man can change his life after
being incarcerated.

Students learned first-hand the hardships and struggles of obtaining a job after serving time in prison with the next chapter in the presentation, achieving goals.

“When you got a felony, you don’t have to worry about a company policy but you do have to worry about management and their views,” Garlock said.

Garlock was fired a day into his new job at a restaurant because the general manager looked down on his past. Soon after, Garlock was one of 10 people who won the “good citizen” scholarship from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

David Garlock answered students’ questions after the presentation on his life and past experiences during the his visit to Seton Hill University. Photo by S.Dumnich/Setonian.

Garlock received his degree in criminal justice and social welfare in 2017. Garlock’s next chapter from his story was grace, where he worked with the New Person Ministries. The ministry offered an ironic twist where Garlock would work with ex-sex offenders to build new lives.

“You’re not as bad as the worst thing you’ve ever done,” Garlock said.

The last chapter in Garlock’s presentation ended with advocacy. Garlock shared his experience with the Lancaster County Re-entry Management Organization and the Pa. Re-entry Council.

“It takes a village to turn an ex-inmate into a good citizen, it takes a family, and a church,” Garlock said.

The presentation on Garlock’s life came to a close as he opened the floor for the audience to ask questions. The event ran over an hour as professors and criminal justice majors from SHU got the chance to learn from someone who has been through the criminal justice system.

“I’ve been healed and it helps me heal other people,” Garlock said.

Published By: Stephen Dumnich

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