Ryan Ferguson was a normal teenager in a normal town whose life was ripped apart by the Missouri justice system.
Growing up in Columbia, Missouri, Ryan was an ordinary kid who received good grades in school and enjoyed playing sports like soccer, basketball and tennis. As a boy he loved Shaquille O’Neal and had Shaq posters all over his bedroom walls. Ryan enjoyed spending summers in Florida at his grandparents, where he learned to play golf and tennis. Like all teens he was interested in music, having fun and dating!
By age 19 Ryan was attending college in Kansas City, and planning to go on to the University of Missouri to study business or political science and maybe work in real estate like his father Bill.
But then those dreams came to an abrupt end. It took one false confession and a police department blind to justice to forever change Ryan’s life.
Ryan has now been behind bars for almost 9 years, effectively stealing away his entire twenties. He had plans to graduate college, travel the world, build a career and settle down and have a family. Now he simply dreams of being free.
For Ryan the hardest part of being locked up is knowing how much he’s missed out and realizing that every day lost is a day he’ll never get back. He’s missed friends’ weddings, births and celebrations. Lost touch with many people whose lives have moved on while he has remained falsely imprisoned. Ryan feels forgotten.
Ryan has tried to make the best of his new life. He’s been working as a tutor in prison for the last 6 years, 3 days a week, helping other inmates study for their GED. Helping others helps him keep going. Ryan says the other inmates treat him well and are supportive of his fight for justice.
Ryan works out in the prison gym and plays basketball – helping focus his mind. He has access to a TV and is a big fan of Nashville, Parenthood and Modern Family. And he’s allowed to listen to music – on CD and cassette tape. But Ryan has no security. At any moment he could be sent to solitary, denied family visits and phone calls or forced to share with an unstable cellmate. It’s happened before and could happen again at any time.
Today Ryan has a girlfriend, the support of a wonderful family and thousands of supporters around the world but admits he’s lonely and feels cut off from the world. He’s only allowed a limited number of visits each month and has lost touch with many old friends. He hasn’t been on a computer in almost a decade and has never sent a text or used Facebook. And sometimes he admits it’s hard to stay positive when you can feel your life slipping away.
Through it all Ryan remains hopeful he’ll be released sooner rather than later so he can reclaim as much of his life as possible. The thought of a 40-year sentence is unbearable.
Upon his release Ryan wants to return to school to finish his education, maybe get a law degree, and have some time away to travel and explore the world.
But days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. Ryan’s next hearing likely won’t be until the summer of 2013. Meanwhile he’s left waiting, losing years of his life for a crime he had no part in…