PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In 1992, Peter Slom went before the R.I. Parole Board to request an early release from prison.
Nearly two decades later, Slom has found himself on the other side, regularly hearing countless inmates make their case for a conditional release.
Slom is the first formerly incarcerated person to be appointed to the R.I. Parole Board, and is one of seven people who decides whether an inmate deserves a second chance.
“When I see people that come in front of us … I think it gives me a different perspective,” Slom explained. “I can see that – there’s no guarantees that people will do good or not do good – but sometimes I can see somebody really being sincere and they have a good plan, they have some good supports.”
“I like when they take responsibility, real responsibility, for what they did, because that’s what I had to do,” he continued. “It was really humbling.”
Slom was was coaching at a local high school when he was arrested for selling cocaine in 1990. He was sentenced to serve six years behind bars.
“When you’re using a lot, you see yourself as being invincible, like this won’t happen to me,” Slom said. “And when it does, it’s like, ‘oh, I can’t believe this.’ I’m angry with everybody else … it took me a while until I realized I should be angry with myself. Nobody made me do this, I did this all on my own.”
Slom served two years at the ACI before becoming eligible for early release. In 1992, he successfully petitioned the R.I. Parole Board and used the four years he was out on parole to turn his life around.
“Parole is important,” he explained. “If I didn’t get parole, I wouldn’t have cared. I’d be sitting in prison and … you can act up in prison pretty easily, with drugs around and fights. If they didn’t have parole, I think you’d have chaos in the prison system.”
Since being released from prison, Slom earned his Master of Social Work from Rhode Island College and a Substance Use Certification from the University of Rhode Island.
Slom has also been in recovery, during which he met his wife and started a family.
Having been out of prison for decades, Slom has devoted his life to helping others.
Slom spent the bulk of his career with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) working with teens at the Rhode Island Training School. He’s also served as an advocate for both the formerly incarcerated and people struggling with substance abuse disorders.
Now in retirement, Slom said he’s starting a new chapter by joining the R.I. Parole Board.
“I think it would be good to always have one person on there who was formerly incarcerated,” Slom said. “I think only two other states have somebody … when I did this, I wasn’t aware I was the first one in Rhode Island. But it’s very humbling and I’m very proud to be on the board.”
Gov. Dan McKee announced Slom’s appointment to the R.I. Parole Board last month.
McKee said Slom’s “extensive experience in rehabilitation and social work will be an asset to the board, and his background will help bring new perspective to each individual case.”
“I am confident that he will help further the mission of the board by promoting safe and productive re-entry of incarcerated individuals, and supporting the public safety of all Rhode Islanders,” McKee continued.
When asked whether he believes in second chances, Slom said absolutely.
“I certainly got one, so why can’t other people have it?” he said.