Sunday, November 25, 2012

Obama Fiddles, Need for Pardons Remains

Last week, The Village Voice reported on the case of Drayton Curry, a 92 year-old federal prisoner who had served almost twenty years of a life sentence for "a fairly thin non-violent drug conspiracy conviction." Curry, a "model prisoner" and war veteran, died in prison after waiting almost two years for the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and President Obama to simply respond to his request for clemency!

On average, Obama's twenty-three grants of federal executive clemency have taken 3.4 years to wade through the DOJ's bloated, prosecution- heavy bureaucracy. There followed, on average, a whopping 291-day wait at the White House!

But, before you rationalize further indifference, be aware ...

Another clemency application has recently been filed in Office of the Pardon Attorney, on behalf of five individuals. Each of them was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (also known as LWOP) for non-violent marijuana offenses. Although the vast majority of marijuana offenders with no history of violence currently receive sentences ranging from probation to a few years in prison, none of the judges in these five cases had discretion in sentencing.

But read on ...

Each of the five has been in prison for at least 15 years. The average length of incarceration for the  entire group is 19 years. Although they knew they would never be eligible for parole, each of the five availed themselves of every course, program or activity within the federal prison system that could help themselves and help their fellow inmates, and conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion. In sum, each of the five is considered a "model prisoner," rehabilitated by any reasonable standard of the concept.

But, hey, no need to stop learning. Get this:

Each of the men has a stable home environment, job possibility and family awaiting him, if released. Each is over 60 years of age and has health issues. Indeed  two are 65 and one is 66. No one is arguing these men are innocent. But estimates are that taxpayers are in for about $360,000 per year to house five prisoners. Toss in more for medical treatment and you are well on your way to half a million per year. And why? Because these men are serious threats to society? By what logic? Couldn't our tax dollars be spent more wisely?

The prisoners (John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Ronald Duke, William Dekle and Charles "Fred" Cundiff) are represented by the Law Office of Michael Kennedy P.C. If President Obama really believes America is about "second chances," he will act on this clemency application sooner than later, before any of the five dies in prison.

Of course, looming in the background is a sea-change regarding legalization of marijuana  Since these men were sentenced, 18 states have legalized medical marijuana. In addition, 2 states legalized private recreational use of marijuana in the last election. And, for the first time, public support for legalization of marijuana has passed the 50 percent mark in Gallup polls. Read more about LWOP in marijuana cases here.

1 comment:

beth said...

Looking forward to lots of 2012 Presidential Clemency.

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