OHIO — After serving nearly a decade behind bars, a 23-year-old woman once caught in the cycle of human trafficking looks forward to helping other at-risk youth.
Getting to fight over the bathroom with her brothers is something Alexis Martin cherishes these days. It might not seem like a big deal, but for Martin it is since she spent seven-and-a-half years behind bars. She's been out of prison for a little over a year now.
“I'm grateful that I get to experience those things and be a part of those things,” Martin explained.
She said growing up was tough because she was in and out of foster care and on the streets. By age 11, “I was exposed to a lot of illegal activity. At that point in my life I've already experienced sexual abuse."
Martin said by that point, she took on the role of making sure bills were paid and that her siblings ate. Vulnerable to life on the streets, Martin got drawn into sex trafficking. The motivation to stick with it was simply knowing that she could take care of her family, but that life got her in trouble with the law at just 15-years-old.
“I decided that I was going to leave. He told me I couldn't go to school anymore, and school was only my only hope that I ever would leave behind the ghettos — that abuse,” she said.
So, she planned a robbery with the help of some others. That plan got her arrested because the robbery plot ended in the shooting death of her trafficker.
“I didn't plan on going to prison. I didn't plan on a life being took. I planned on just getting my brothers and siblings, going far away after the robbery," she said.
A judge sentenced Martin to life in prison with parole. Denial after denial by judges made it appear that getting released from prison wasn’t going to be possible, but when she connected with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, things shifted.
She got the chance to go before a parole board and share her story in an effort to get clemency. With a majority in favor, it was now up to Gov. Mike DeWine to decide. Things didn't move as quickly as she would've liked them to, but one day, “in the midst of me walking to the warden’s office, there's people that were coming to the bars that’s shaking, talking about, 'you’re going home! You're going home. You’re on TV. You're on TV,'" she said.
DeWine pardoned Martin and made the announcement during a press conference in April 2020.
Finishing six months of rehab after her release from prison, she’s now working as a hostess and a gas station attendant and looking forward.
“My cause is deeper. Eventually, I hope to be able to change lives of at risk youth," She said.
That's because she was once an at-risk youth. She said there weren't really programs around to help her back then.
”I want to be able to change lives so that you're not on drugs. I want to change lives so you don't become a pimp, so you don't become a drug dealer.”
While in prison, Martin got her GED and created a business plan for an at-risk youth program.
“And at 23, I am finally given the chance to start putting those things in motion,” she said.
While there are some other pending cases connected to the human trafficking case, Martin is hopeful her record will be cleared. Plus, with her eye on college, she's excited for what the future holds.