LEE COUNTY, SC (WIS) - We're seeing lots of reaction on social media after Sunday's deadly riot at Lee Correctional Institution. Now, a man who says he was inside just a few months ago giving a motivational speech to the inmates wants to give his say.
Kyle Greene's speaking out in support of the prisoners. He says the lives of inmates still matter, despite their crimes. That's why he accepted an invitation to do a motivational speech at Lee Correctional earlier this year, but he admits it was not an easy decision to go.
"When I first walked in and the door shut behind me, it was so loud. I've never heard anything like that before. So, initially, I was scared. I've never been in a prison. I've never been arrested," Greene said.
He said he felt an obligation to step in when no one else would.
"She said she reached out to so many people and nobody took up the offer, but I accepted it to go," Greene said. "These people are like human beings. They probably made a mistake, just like all of us. We all make mistakes. We all get it wrong. We all fail at something in life, but they made the mistakes that cost them their freedom and I don't condone the crimes or anything that they did, but I knew that they needed motivation, too."
It was the inmates, Greene said, who eased his fears – respectful and humble, he said.
"They said, 'Mr. Kyle, thank you for coming. Nobody like you ever comes back here and speaks to people like us' and it felt really good to know that I didn't think I was too good for them."
An approach not everyone is willing to take. Greene says social media posts in reaction to the lives lost during Sunday's riot have been disheartening.
"As long as your sin looks different than mine, then I can ostracize you and not even deal with you. No sin weighs more than the other. Every sin is sin. Just because they sin different than you doesn't make them an less of a human being than you are," said Greene.
He said by giving up on prisoners we all lose.
"An eye for an eye, it only leaves a blind world. If at the end of the day, hate wins out and love doesn't prevail, we'll just become a world of people who are like callous, who don't have emotions," Greene said.
He said the effects of this week's deadly riot are much bigger than the prison.
"My heart goes out to the family members who lost loved ones because at the end of the day that's still somebody's family member. That's somebody's son. That's somebody's uncle. That's somebody's father, somebody's brother," Greene said.
Greene wants to be clear that he believes committing any crime is wrong, he's just hoping the rest of society will choose what he says is the right thing and treat every person – including those incarcerated – like human beings.