We are very sad to share the news that Thomas (Reem) Cotton passed away last night after an illness related to the Coronavirus. Many of the people in our network probably knew Reem, as he was part of the Graterford Think Tank for 10 or 11 years, and was probably involved in 20-25 Inside-Out Trainings.
Reem was in his mid-50s and served 27 years in prison, having been released a little over a year ago. During his incarceration, he graduated from Villanova University with his bachelor's degree and subsequently obtained his master's degree from California State University. He also served for several years as the President of the Graterford Villanova Alumni. Besides his own schooling, Reem tutored other men in the institution on literacy skills and served as a paralegal in Graterford’s Para-Professional Law Clinic, helping to represent others who could not represent themselves. After his incarceration, Reem was hired by Eastern State Penitentiary as the Supervisor of Education and Community Engagement.
Reem was a deeply spiritual man with a big heart who was generous to a fault. He was also wicked smart and able to appreciate subtlety and nuance, which added depth to any conversation. He had a strength of conviction and ability to focus that was out of the ordinary. All of this added to the power of the leadership and commitment that his life exhibited. And most importantly, Reem was a dedicated son, father, and friend to many. He has touched countless lives on both sides of the prison wall, including the many instructors who came to know him over the years. His life was a testament to grace under pressure.
(Thanks to John Pace, who works with us and spent time in Graterford with Reem, for some of this information.)
Click here for an article on Thomas (Reem) Cotton published on May 6, 2020.