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After serving more than three decades incarcerated for a nonviolent drug offense, on the first day of the spring equinox, Tony Lewis Sr. will get to smell the cherry blossoms as a free man.

Tony Lewis Sr. reunites with his family on March 20 after serving more than 30 years of a life sentence in prison on drug charges. (Courtesy photo)
Tony Lewis Sr. reunites with his family on March 20 after serving more than 30 years of a life sentence in prison on drug charges. (Courtesy photo)

His son, Tony Lewis Jr., who has dedicated his career and activism to fighting against mass incarceration, emphasizing prison reform and working to reverse his father’s life sentence, took to social media to share the good news. The often-used hashtag #FreeTonyLewis is no longer necessary — Tony Lewis is free. 

“Thanks for all the prayers and support. I’m going to pick my father up today to bring him home,” the elated son and activist tweeted in all capital letters. “God is the greatest.”

For years, people have been following Lewis Jr.’s fight for his father, the Free Tony Lewis movement. However, Lewis Jr., whose father went to prison when he was 9 years old,  hasn’t just been fighting for his dad. He has worked diligently to raise awareness about the statistics of mass incarceration in the United States.

According to a recent study by the Prison Policy Institute, the U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation — 565 per 100,000 residents — with more than 1.9 million individuals confined in cells throughout the country. 

Further, Black families are particularly affected by mass incarceration statistics, with the study revealing that African Americans make up 38% of incarcerated residents, despite only representing 12% of the U.S. population. 

Why Tony Lewis Jr. Fights the Fight

In a 2021 interview with this reporter for AFRO News, Lewis Jr. explained that his passion about mass incarceration is rooted in seeing his father and other family members serve prison sentences.

“They’ve guided my work, informed my work and held me accountable,” he said in April 2021, as he prepared to host a Free Tony Lewis rally — one of many events Lewis Jr. has held over the years to raise awareness about mass incarceration statistics and to garner more support surrounding his dad’s case. 

On Monday, nearly two years later, Lewis Jr. posted photos of him and his family reunited with the patriarch.  The photos featured Lewis Sr. and Jr. posing together, as well as other matchings such as the now-grandfather with his grandchildren.

Thousands Join the Fight to Free Tony Lewis Sr.

With more than 50,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram combined, Lewis Jr. has been joined over the years by thousands who have fought alongside him and followed his quest to free his dad.

Hosting and collaborating on events and initiatives locally and nationwide, the Free Tony Lewis initiative captured the hearts of many.

“Tony Lewis Sr. is a good man who happened to grow up in the worst circumstances of extreme poverty and violence. It led to him making certain decisions and today he understands the severity of his decisions and takes full accountability for his actions,” according to the Free Tony Lewis website, adding that he hoped for freedom in order to encourage young people with similar backgrounds to take a more promising path.

Garnering thousands of congratulatory comments, many longtime supporters celebrated the news that Lewis Sr. was no longer behind bars. 

“Just rode past Hanover, and felt an emotion like my own dad was on his way home,” one Twitter user wrote, referencing the area of Washington, D.C. where Lewis Jr. grew up. “You’re [an] example for us all to never stop fighting,” the social media user said to Lewis Jr. “It was Free Tony Lewis now Tony Lewis free.”

One Instagram user commented: “This has got to be one of the most beautiful stories I’ve witnessed about family, love and perseverance. Much love and respect to you [Tony Lewis Jr.].”

WI Managing Editor Micha Green is a storyteller and actress from Washington, D.C. Micha received a Bachelor’s of Arts from Fordham University, where she majored in Theatre, and a Master’s of Journalism...

Join the Conversation


  1. Today is a day I thought I’d never see myself having lived in the Old Tyler House 1200 North Capital st NW, which is a block away from Handover St. I remember Tony brother Tyrone Lewis who was my Big Homie back in the days. All I can say is that God answered the prayers of the many people who never forgot about the Big Homie.

  2. What a great day in history for Tony Lewis Jr, and the city of DC. No longer, free Tony Lewis, rather, Tony Lewis, is free. This moment in time will without doubt help our youth of today with lessons learned that will be coming from Tony Lewis Sr. himself. How we can make bad choices in life, pay our debt and then come back to help others to avoid our past mistakes. This will without doubt put hope into our youth and adults that people do and can change for the better. Tony Lewis Sr, I look forward to meeting you one day, I worked with your son years ago at DPR. Congratulations and keep up the good work. -CWebb

  3. God is the greatest my Allah bless you and your family Mr Lewis Sr and Mr Lewis Jr Today is a wonderful day. And God willing you and your family will have many many many more. Be safe and continue to be the role model you higave been for the last 34 years.

  4. I’m glad to see Tony Lewis come home after 34yrs. I have a lot of respect for Tony Jr protesting to get his dad out of prison. DC residents will look up to Tony Sr as O.G.

  5. Tony Lewis Sr. is a good human being and still a child of God. No one is perfect!!! But Everyone makes a decision that might change your life , for the good or bad. Many of us has and some don’t want acknowledge they did. Tony Lewis Sr acknowledged and served his Time for his decisions. So To All ,Tony Lewis Sr. served his Time with Anger, Uncertainty,Love,Patience and Trust. This Human Being is FREE!! I Said Tony Lewis Is Free!!!!And We As A Whole,Are delighted for U To See What His Family And Friends Know.A Dynamite Human Being,Ultimate Father/ Loving Human Being and Forever friend. Tony Lewis Sr. ,U r lo ved by Many.Not everyone can say that.Happy U R Home!!!!! Tony Lewis Jr., I’m not surprised of what you have accomplished,look at yourself in the mirror and Say I’m a Determined, I’m Loved and I’m the Motherfucking Black Leader that We need and U also need to teach it others. How to be strong and stay in that path of being great and being a Voice to others when no one understands or listens . I, Lator Jackson want U to know I’m very proud of you, young man.U r someone that needs to be fighting for everyone , U r a Champion,U did Good,U learned from the best. Stay Blessed n Keep Helping Your Family. Tony Lewis Jr. I want to Text U see N Say U Did A Outstanding Job On helping of Your Father’s Release. It took A Village,But U We’re The Man ,(SON) Front N Center. Thank U For Showing Us,Black Love Between A Father N Son,America It’s Out There,!! Just Look At That.Proud to know U Two.

  6. Man words can’t say how the city feels about a man who stood tall took responsibility for what the system said he did a didn’t take no one down with him . Now if we can get Nugent home . He is another one who has been gone for 30 plus years . Let not stop with Toney but let’s keep this movement going . Peace love an blessings to the Lewis family

  7. Hi Tony Lewis Sr. I watched your interview with Vlad it was very interesting and thank God you were able to make it home safely and still have the knowledge to talk about your past.

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