Woods’ story started 41 years ago when he was born. But this story, the one of how he took an 8th-grade education and navigated Missouri’s complex legal system began in 2007 when he was convicted of trafficking drugs. Deemed a repeat offender, Woods was sentenced to 25 years without the possibility of parole.
After the Missouri legislature revised the criminal code, eliminating language prohibiting probation or parole for prior and persistent drug offenders, Woods fought for the changes to be retroactive — because if anyone was going to save Woods’ life, it was going to have to be him. He paid for extra time in the prison library, studying and learning how to write a motion. He “went through hell,” Woods said, and developed insomnia and anxiety.
But he won. A circuit court sided with Woods’ argument, and he was granted a parole hearing. On March 23, 2018, Woods was released from prison.
The celebration was transient, however. After an appeal from the Department of Corrections (DOC), Missouri’s Supreme Court decided earlier this year the release was in error, throwing the father of five’s future into tumult — until Wednesday, that is.
Taking into account Woods’ “behavior during the period of his erroneous release,” Parson granted him a limited commutation, converting his term to house arrest — imposed by the Parole Board — until October 2029.
“This was an act of mercy for a man that had changed his life,” Parson said. “Placing him on house arrest was the right choice under these unusual circumstances.”
When Woods got the call summoning him to Jefferson City Wednesday morning, he said he was cautiously optimistic. He brought his 15-year-old son with him to the Governor’s Office, and as Parson signed his name onto the document adorned with the golden seal of Missouri, Woods was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I’m extremely humbled and thankful for the support, confidence, and trust,” Woods told The Missouri Times from his auto service shop, his sanguine personality and the cacophony of the garage in contrast with the dreary afternoon. “We as people can do anything together.”
‘A real success story about somebody given a second chance’
Woods was born and raised in St. Louis, but he grew up in Columbia, too. CoMo has become his home base. It’s where he opened Woods Auto Spa in June 2019 and Munchi’s Fish & Chicc’n food truck earlier this year.
Woods has given back to Columbia, his home, especially after incarceration. He’s mentored at-risk youth and sponsored a dance team. He’s paid his employees for a full day’s work while encouraging them to take off early to participate in charity work. And he doesn’t turn away those seeking help — no matter how busy he is.
On any given day, Woods can expect half a dozen people to reach out or show up at his auto detailing shop. They’ve heard his story, and it’s similar enough to their own. They want advice, inspiration, or even just an ear to listen.
“I’m accountable, and that’s what keeps me standing tall,” Woods said. “And there’s humanity in me.”
Woods’ story — how he fought for change and freedom and refuses to turn his back on his community — has earned him bipartisan support. Kent Gibson, one of Woods’ attorneys, referred to it as: “A real success story about somebody given a second chance.”
It was about a month ago when Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden met with Woods and heard his story “from start to finish, details good, bad, and ugly.”
“I think if you talk to him, you recognize there’s something different about him,” the Republican from Columbia said. “He’s turned his life around him; he’s helping kids around him; he’s helping colleagues and peers make better decisions. The circumstances around him, for him to potentially have to go back to prison, were unfortunate … and a situation we needed to rectify. I’m glad the governor took action, and I think it will make a big difference in his life and the lives around him.”
“I’m pleased with the governor’s decision,” state Rep. Kip Kendrick, a Democrat who represents part of Columbia, said. “Dimetrious Woods paid his debt to society. He has done everything we’d ask of anyone on parole. He owns a successful business. He mentors people throughout the community. This was the right thing to do.”
“Since his parole release in 2018, Dimetrious Woods has done more than we would hope of someone seeking a second chance,” Jeremy Cady, the Americans for Prosperity – Missouri state director, said. “Woods has mentored troubled youth and started his own business, creating value while integrating back into society. We praise Gov. Parson’s decision to grant clemency, keeping Woods with his family and community.”
Commutation amid COVID-19
In an interview with The Missouri Times, Gibson praised Parson’s decision, especially during the persisting coronavirus pandemic. As of Thursday morning, at least four inmates in Missouri’s state prisons have tested positive for COVID-19 with one fatality, according to DOC.
“It’s clearly the right thing to do because he’s demonstrated that he’s been a model parolee for the two years he’s been out and sort of underscores the lunacy of incarcerating nonviolent offenders more than a lot of murderers and rapists,” Gibson said. “These laws are counterproductive in times when you have limited prison space that ought to be reserved for violent criminals.”
Woods’ sentence was commuted on April 22 — Earth Day. A day dedicated to promoting environmental protection, Woods was granted the chance to continue to grow and thrive in his ecosystem, to make his world a better place.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.