The holidays will be brighter for several people convicted of drug crimes
and sentenced to lifetime prison terms. President Obama recently used
his power to pardon convicted criminals to set free eight people who had
been convicted in crack cocaine offenses. The pardons mark another important
step in the way drug policy is changing in the United States.
In August, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal prosecutors
would be changing the way that they would be prosecuting
drug cases. Essentially, he acknowledged that the method of jailing drug offenders
(especially non-violent, small-time street dealers) was not good for the
country’s long term interests. The past drug policies basically
put an entire generation of young African American men behind bars, and
had only resulted in growing the prison population along with the cost
of jailing offenders.
Three of the offenders pardoned were highlighted in a recent HuffingtonPost.com
report. All of them were serving life-without-parole sentences for non-violent
crimes. They all reportedly refused plea deals that would have resulted
in shorter sentences, but they would have been required to testify to
things they did not do, or testify against others in exchange for the
possibility of a lenient sentence.
Aside from the sentences, the tragic circumstances are poignant reminders
of how important it is for individuals charged with drug offenses to have
experienced counsel at their side. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer
can analyze all the facts presented and help the accused make informed
decisions about their case. As the preceding story suggests, drug crimes
can have lifelong implications.
Source: HuffingtonPost.com, “Obama commutes sentences of eight people convicted of crack cocaine offenses,” Saki Knafo, December 20, 2013