My name is Thomas Thibault, and this is my life story. I am also known as inmate #W04843; my friends call me T. Bo. Currently, my home is within the Florida Department of Corrections, where I am serving four life sentences without parole. I am a blessed man, a prisoner of hope (Zechariah 9:12).
You probably think I’m crazy. I know. How could someone say that being behind bars for the rest of their life is a blessing and that they have hope? I’ll explain. Let me start by telling you how I ended up here.
There’s nothing major or tragic that I can point to from my young life that helps explain my circumstances. My mother was loving, and she raised me right. I also had a great little sister and good friends. I enjoyed sports and worked hard in school.
In my eyes, the worst thing I did was occasionally experiment with marijuana and have sex with my girlfriend. Wasn’t that what most teens did?
At 17, I became a single father. But I took responsibility for my actions, and before my daughter’s first birthday, I had graduated from high school and received sole custody of her.
I went to work immediately and landed an excellent job with a nationwide company with good benefits. I enrolled my baby girl in a private daycare where she learned Spanish. We often went on trips to Disney and other amusement parks. We lived on a nice piece of property that I was renting to own. Life was good; we were good.
I continued experimenting with weed and even sold some on the side, but that didn’t seem like a big deal. Little did I know that this drug would be a gateway to a life of hell, with the devil himself as my guide.
Because I was selling weed, I often met people who did other drugs like cocaine. When they offered it to me, I thought, why not? I ignored the voice inside, telling me to walk away. I blocked the knowledge that several family members struggled with addiction and that I, too, could become an addict. I tried it.
At first, I used only on the weekends. I had to provide for my daughter, so I remained committed to my job, our home, and her. She had been my saving grace for years, but my love for my child was no match for my growing addiction.
Within eight months, I was a full-blown addict who used cocaine daily at work and home. I took my daughter with me to drug houses and left her in my work truck while I smoked crack. How low can you go?
My addiction led to paranoia, and I imagined the FBI was coming to get me. I lost everything—my job, car, home, and daughter. But that was okay—I wanted to be left alone with my new love, cocaine. I intentionally pushed my family and all responsibilities away. I sent my daughter off to live elsewhere and hit the streets with a vengeance.
I stayed up for days under the influence of cocaine, robbing, stealing, and sleeping with strange women. Kind, hardworking, lovable Tommy was gone, and a monster with no regard for anyone or anything had taken his place. All I cared about now was supporting my addiction, no matter what.
On Thanksgiving morning 1998, I did something only a monster can do. I entered the home of three innocent people and killed them during a robbery. I was arrested and booked in the Palm Beach County Jail five days later.
You would think that after committing such a horrific crime and facing such a dismal future, I would cry out to God. But I didn’t. Instead, I continued to get high and live a lie. I had never seen any need for God in my life; I always figured I could handle things on my own.
My mother had taken me to church when I was a kid, hoping I’d get to know the Lord, but that didn’t work. Besides, I knew I deserved to be locked up—why bring God into my situation? He wouldn’t want me anyway. I was a monster.
Two years later, in 2001, a judge gave me a death sentence for each murder and one life sentence for the robbery. I accepted his sentence as a fate well deserved for what I had done. On September 25, 2001, I moved to death row.
“You know you’re going to die here,” another prisoner called out to me not long after I arrived. But as I sat in my dark 6 x 9 cell, I couldn’t accept his words as truth. Deep down, I felt a strange stirring of hope. I had no idea where it was coming from.
Surprisingly, I remained on death row for only two years and two days, and then I was shipped off to the Palm Beach County Jail. My death sentences were overturned on a technicality.
While the attorneys fought my case, I joined a Faith and Character dorm run by a man named Gino. There, he told me how God had sent His Son, Jesus, to die for my sin (John 3:16).
God opened my spiritual eyes to understand the depth of His love for humanity—even murderers like me. And when He poured His love into my heart, I believed in Him (Romans 5:5). Through my faith in Jesus, I came to know God and felt the genuine presence of His Holy Spirit (John 14:6).
Not long after that, God gave me an incredible gift through the selfless act of the mother of one of my victims. She told me that God’s saving grace had enabled her to forgive me for killing her son. Her gracious act made the reality of God’s love sink even deeper into my heart. (Incredibly, this lady had approached my mother during my original court hearing and extended similar love, grace, and comfort. She had recognized that my mother was also a victim of my crimes.)
I stood firm in my faith for a while after returning to prison. But then I took my eyes off the Lord and focused on my surroundings. Ultimately, I returned to doing and selling drugs and drinking buck. Soon, I was living deep in the underworld of prison life.
I was often sent to confinement as punishment for my actions. After one 90-day confinement stay, my family came to visit me. My mom made it clear that she was upset by how I was living. “Tommy,” she said, “God has given you a second chance at life—something your victims never got. And here you are, throwing away His precious gift. And rather disrespectfully, I might add!” I could see that I was breaking her heart.
“I’m just doing what men do, Mom,” I replied. Then she proceeded to share her definition of a real man with me. Funny, it didn’t include any of the things I was doing.
Back in my cell, I contemplated what my mother had said. God had used her to get my attention. I grabbed my Bible and opened it. Matthew 6:26 (NIV) quickly caught my attention: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than them?”
God used this simple verse to remind me of His love, provision, and care for me. And my heart responded, “Okay, God, enough is enough. If this verse is true, if You’ll really care for me for the rest of my life behind these bars, I will put down all this dumb stuff I’m holding on to and follow You. I’m all Yours, and I’m all-in.”
It’s been eight years since I committed to trust God with my future and get serious about my faith. And you know what? God has never failed me.
As I’ve made my home in Him and tried to glorify Him with my actions and words, He has given me a fruitful life, even behind bars. He’s also helped my behavior change. I have been free from a DR (disciplinary report) for four years and remained sober. It’s been a tough fight, but the closer I move toward God, the more I leave my old lifestyle and thoughts behind.
Nearly three years ago, I joined the Faith and Character Dorm at Taylor C.I. and began leading programs. There, I discovered God’s purpose for me.
He showed me that in prison, I have an incredible mission to share the goodness of God with others. Every day, I have the privilege of leading men away from a dead-end life and into the loving arms of Jesus. I get to help others become prisoners of hope too!
Now can you see why I feel so blessed?
Not once did God give up on me. Instead, He planted a seed of hope inside my heart on death row and drew me to Himself. He forgave my sin, gave me the promise of eternal life, and now helps me stand strong against my addiction. I’m not a perfect man, but because of Christ, I have hope despite serving four life sentences.
You can have hope in Christ, too.
Whatever you’re facing, you must know that it isn’t the end. It’s the beginning. If you’ll let Him, God will reveal His love, grace, and purpose to you in powerful ways. You don’t have to be a prisoner to your circumstances; you can choose to be a prisoner of hope.
Open your heart to God today. Let go of the dead-end ways of this world, and you’ll discover His blessings for yourself.
THOMAS THIBAULT helps incarcerated men discover freedom in Christ, even as he serves serving four life sentences in the Florida Department of Corrections.