Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Genarlow Wilson Gets a 'Second Chance'

After 32 months behind bars and an intense four-year legal battle, Genarlow Wilson is free from prison. Wilson was released Friday after a 4-3 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court described Wilson's imprisonment as "cruel and unusual punishment."

In 2003, the 17-year-old high school scholar and athlete was convicted of aggravated child molestation and sentenced to 10 years in prison after engaging in consensual oral sex with another teenager. The punishment was denounced on activist blogs, by Atlanta community members and notable civil rights leaders, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton. Tensions surrounding the case inspired protests and garnered worldwide media attention.

A plea agreement might have released Wilson sooner, but defense attorneys rejected the offer. Defense attorneys say it would have required Wilson to register as a sex offender, which would have prevented him from sharing a living space with his younger sister.


Wilson is glad to be released, but acknowledges that his actions as an adolescent were far from innocent.

"I didn't make the best of decisions ... [looking back] I can't believe that was me," says the now 21-year-old, who declares he was unaware that Georgia's age of consent is 16. The videotaped sex act shows Wilson engaging with a 15-year-old girl.

"I don't condone that behavior," Wilson says. "A few minutes of pleasure can be a lifetime of trouble."

Wilson is "grateful" to have a second chance and is already making plans for the future. When asked what's next on his agenda, Wilson, described as an avid reader while in prison, says without hesitation: "To get into college as soon as possible."

Undecided about where he wants to attend, he plans to major in sociology.


"I've been living my major."

Web material written and produced by Lee Hill.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit