It's a brand new world for Monae Davis. At 44, he's trying to figure out how to use a smart phone for the first time.

"How do you cut the phone on? First, show me that," Davis said while staring at his phone. "Call the phone and show me how to answer it. That's all I need for right now."

  • Monae Davis had his 20-year prison sentence reduced to time served
  • The First Step Act in part allows inmates convicted of crimes related to crack cocaine to ask a judge to reduce long sentences
  • Federal prosecutors are seeking to return Davis to prison as they appeal the decision

Life has changed greatly for Davis, who for the first time in 12 years is a free man and back home in Buffalo. 

"It's real life and I'm here now and I know I have to get to business. That means to get my life back in order," he said.

Davis has been staying at the Bissonnette House in Buffalo, a place for men making the transition from prison back into society.

Before his release in the May, he was serving a 20-year sentence for his role in a drug network selling crack cocaine. He was also served time for manslaughter after accidentally shooting another person.

"It was rough, because I've been in trouble with the law before, but not at this magnitude," he said.

Davis' time behind bars was cut short, however, through major criminal justice reforms signed into law by President Donald Trump last year.

"This landmark legislation will give countless current and former prisoners a second chance at life, and new opportunity to contribute to their communities, their states and nations," Trump said last December as he signed the First Step Act.

Part of the law, which had bipartisan support in Congress, allows inmates facing long mandatory crack cocaine sentences to ask a judge to reduce their time. According to the Department of Justice, more than 4,000 inmates have been released or had sentences reduced through the measure, which also provides programs to reduce recidivism. 

For Davis, a federal judge agreed, shaving roughly six years off his sentence with time served.

"I fell out the chair, happy, and I ran around the unit about 20 times," he recalled.

Almost as soon as Davis learned he was going to be freed, federal prosecutors began working to send him back in the penitentiary. The United States Attorney is appealing the judge's decision, arguing that Davis admitted in a plea deal to handling more crack-cocaine than allowed for him to qualify for a reduced sentence.

"I wasn't torn down. It was just like, 'C'mon man, leave me alone. What more do you want?'" Davis said. 

The U.S. Attorney for New York's Western District, James P. Kennedy Jr., would not comment on Davis' specific case, but offered a written statement in response to questions:

“While we cannot comment on this particular case due to its pendency, we generally note that it is not uncommon for parties to seek appellate review of the matter in which newly enacted statutes have been interpreted in the district courts in order that the precise meaning and scope of various provisions of those statutes can be determined. Such review is consistent with our mission of seeing to it that justice is done in each case.”

In the meantime, Davis is staying positive about his situation, and understands it's the prosecutor’s job. Whether it's fair is of no concern to him. 

"It was my time now they put me under the hot seat, where I've got to fight again. So let's fight," Davis said. 

Davis expects to find out if he'll stay out of prison late this year or early next year. For now, he's learning how to use a smart phone, how to land a job and how to be a grandfather.

He's trying to create a better future, even if some want to keep him a prisoner of his past.

"I don't have no desire for that kind of lifestyle anymore. I don't have that desire," Davis said. "I want to come home, get my life back in play, and play with my grandchildren. That's what I want to do."