Dear Mr. President

Clemency is the only hope for nonviolent drug offenders like Sharanda Jones

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters during a visit to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., July 16, 2015. In becoming the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, Obama showcased an emerging bipartisan drive to overhaul America’s criminal justice system in a way none of his predecessors have tried, at least not in modern times. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Sharanda Jones, 48, is just one of thousands of inmates who was sentenced to life on the first offense during the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic. She was sentenced in 1999 for a single cocaine offense, as a first-time, nonviolent offender. The Washington Post reported that Jones was accused of being involved in a “drug conspiracy” — the middle woman between a cocaine supplier and buyer, she was told that she should have known the powdery substance would be converted into crack. Hence the reason for such a harsh penalty. Reforms have already ensured that no one today can be punished as harshly as Jones was. She is one of 35,000 prisoners who filed for clemency, and when President Obama recently granted it to 46 prisoners, her name wasn’t on the list. Her daughter has written to President Obama saying, “The thought she is set to spend the rest of her life in prison as a first-time nonviolent offender is absolutely devastating.” Many are hopeful that Jones and others have a chance of receiving clemency after President Obama’s recent visit to a federal prison and his statement that “this huge spike in incarcerations is also driven by nonviolent drug offenses where the sentencing is completely out of proportion with the crime.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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