Redemption Road CrossFitter Nicholas Wells Seeks Clemency and Release From Prison, Finds Support in CrossFit Community

April 11, 2021 by
Credit: Tristan Ringering
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It all started with a workout. Now, Nicholas Wells could be released from a 48-year prison sentence largely because of CrossFit. 

His story: At the age of 12, Wells moved to Colorado Springs and fell into a life controlled by drugs and alcohol. 

  • After first trying marijuana and beer with his friends, he slowly began experimenting with harder drugs which led to an addiction to methamphetamines. This addiction pushed him to steal so that he could pay for more drugs. 
  • Wells was arrested many times for his property theft crimes, but in 2008, his mother and sister were worried about a possible drug overdose and cooperated with the police to take Wells back into custody. They were unaware of the half-century sentence that would soon unfold. 
  • Because Wells had been arrested so many times for non-violent crimes related to his addiction, he was deemed a habitual offender, which meant the judge could sentence him up to life in person. 

One big thing: While serving time at the Limon Correctional Facility for the last 12 years, Wells became one of the first inmates to join Redemption Road CrossFit, the first ever CrossFit affiliate inside the walls of a prison. He has lost over 200 pounds since he began CrossFit and has become one of nine inmates in the country to earn a CrossFit Level 2 certificate.

  • “He really loved the community aspect of it, and he also loved that it was an opportunity to break down racial barriers inside of the prison,” Violeta Chapin, Wells lawyer, said. 
  • He is now employable at CrossFit gyms once he is released, and is currently studying to earn his CF-L3. Aaron Brill, President and CEO of the Redemption Road CrossFit (RRCF) program, also plans to add him to the RRCF traveling seminar team to institute the program across the country. 
  • Alongside CrossFit, Wells has been sober for 12 years. According to his clemency petition, “The risk of a drug relapse for Nick is very low, if not entirely non-existent, given the length of his sobriety and the fact that he has completely transformed his mind and body into that of an athlete.”
  • Rehabilitation services were denied to Wells because of his 48-year sentence and are only granted to inmates with less than 10 years left. Therefore, he found sobriety all on his own. 
Credit: Tristan Ringering

Why it matters: Wells has made great progress while in prison, and those who have been there to witness his reformation have stepped up to support his release. Chapin and her team at the University of Colorado Law School’s Criminal & Immigration Defense Clinic have filed a clemency petition to urge Gov. Jared Polis to release him. 

  • “Anger and poor decision making is a large part of what got him there, but now he has the self-control and discipline to do the right thing even under stress,” Brill said. 
  • The 110-page clemency petition has been submitted to the Executive Clemency Advisory Board and, if considered, will be forwarded to Polis. Wells will be released from prison immediately if clemency is granted. 

Community support: The CrossFit community has helped support Wells’s release, including Ben Dziwulski from WODprep.

  • A letter about Wells’s story was sent out to WODprep’s entire email list, and over 150 have replied. Most agreed to pass along their own messages to Polis.
  • Dziwulski has been encouraging those who want to support the cause to send a letter to Polis urging him to accept the clemency petition. 

The bottom line: Wells has transformed his life while in prison and has utilized CrossFit to set himself up for success upon his release. 

  •  “I believe in the criminal justice system, have put a lot of people inside myself, and hope to see it work as intended here. The system is supposed to help those that want to reform and redeem themselves,” Brill said in his letter to Polis. “The name of our program, Redemption Road, is very fitting for this moment because that is the path that he is traveling.”

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