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The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has pardoned Cairo native and former N.F.L. football player Christopher Sheffield. The former offender addressed the Parole Board on Tuesday, Aug. 25.
Christopher Sheffield spoke to the board about his life, including a successful pro football career, addiction, prison, parole and recovery.
Sheffield was born in Cairo and graduated from Cairo High School in 1981. He then enrolled at Albany State University on a football scholarship. Sheffield played pro football with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions.
Sheffield says the difference between many offenders who receive parole and him was a decision he made. “I made a conscious decision to turn my will and my life over to God.”
Sheffield was paroled in 1997. His 10-year sentence was commuted in 2003 and his political and civil rights were restored at that time.
Today, he is the manager of the Georgia Pines Community Service Board’s Addictions Recovery Support Center in Thomasville and he’s a certified addictions counselor.
Sheffield says the system the Parole Board has does work.
“I’m here to tell you this morning, the work that you do is relevant and the system (parole) that you have created is effective. From my life experience, it works.”
Following his presentation, Sheffield was presented with a pardon by Parole Board Chairman Terry Barnard.
“The process to apply for a pardon is no small thing. It is an act of official forgiveness by the state of Georgia and Chris’ presentation today is further indication that he is certainly deserving of being pardoned,” stated Barnard.
Sheffield had previously completed the pardon application but had not yet been notified of the Board’s decision.
Sheffield became emotional and stated that he wished his mother, who passed away in 1999, was present in order to witness that he had fulfilled the promises she had asked of him.
During his presentation, Sheffield told the board that offenders leaving the system need to be prepared for the opportunities that come.
“Because of the opportunity the Parole Board gave me, I then was able to re-educate myself and position myself to educate and re-educate others and that’s been the most gratifying thing that I’ve received,” stated Sheffield.
“I think God has allowed me to exist and possibly even created me from the beginning to be in this position so that I can assist those who do not know the way from point A to point B. I want to tell you that if you had not given me the opportunity to change my life in 1997, then I would have spent the remainder of that 10-year sentence in that institution and God knows where I would be today,” he added.
Video of the August Parole Board meeting will be made available on the State Board of Pardons and Paroles’ website and is available now at https://youtu.be/8CZC79TK3zs and anyone can read more about the parole and pardon processes at www.pap.georgia.gov.
The monthly board meetings include presentations, agency operational updates, and policy reviews. Parole decisions are not a part of the monthly meetings.