When a person is found guilty of charges filed against him or her, the punishment should fit the crime. Just like you might expect someone convicted of murder to face a longer jail sentence, you would expect someone who fails to pay a parking ticket to face no more than a small fine. Unfortunately, things don’t always happen that way.
Nearly 20 years ago, a teenage boy was found guilty of participating in a drug conspiracy in the Rockford area. Although he was convicted of selling crack cocaine, none of the charges against him were for violent acts. This was his first run-in with the law. Despite these factors, the boy was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1994, the penalties associated with crack cocaine-related charges were much harsher than those for crimes involving powder cocaine. Although the judge acknowledged that sending a teenager with no criminal record to prison for the rest of his life over non-violent drug crimes was severe, it was the law. Recently, however, the now 39-year-old man, received good news.
In 2011, the man and his attorney began working on a clemency application. Recently, they got word from the Justice Department that he will be released in April.
People in Chicago and across the country rely on the justice system — and the laws it is required to uphold — to be fair toward all. This case clearly shows that egregious errors are sometimes committed. Fortunately, the president and the Justice Department were able to recognize that. Although clemency won’t take back the years of life this man lost in prison, it will allow him to start moving forward.
Source: CBS Chicago, “Obama Commutes Illinois Prisoner’s Life Sentence On Drug Charges,” Dec. 19, 2013