These turkeys received a pardon from being Thanksgiving dinner but a felon who by the way is human life never really gets a pardon. A glass bottle, plastic container and aluminum can has more value than human life. It appears to me that America and its capitalistic views find it as a sport to show how desensitized they are about issues associated with these practices.
We all have to live with the decisions we make in life. However, some people are reminded of their decisions daily in the worst possible way. According to a report released this month by the American Civil Liberties Union, 3,200 people are serving life sentences without parole in state and federal prisons for committing non-violent crimes.
The crimes that land such prisoners in jail for life include acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 of marijuana to an undercover officer, taking a television, circular saw, and a power converter from a vacant house, and making a drunken threat to a police officer while being handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.
The report highlights the stories of 110 men and women who are currently serving their life sentences. The stories are ones that people can relate to and sympathize with. However, due to harsh sentencing laws put in place in the 1980s and 1990s, these people face devastating impacts from their actions.
There is also a staggering amount of racial disparity within the report. Of those serving, 65% are black, 18% are white, and 16% are Latino.
This year, like most years, I’ll be spending my Thanksgiving back home in Chicago with my parents and my grandmother. We’ll cook and talk and eat together. But while I am enjoying the comforts of home, I’ll spend some time thinking about Clarence Aaron and his family.
I thought Clarence would be out of prison by now. I thought he would be home with his mother, Mrs. Linda Aaron, his sister Katrina, and his other devoted family members who sorely miss him.
I was wrong.
Clarence has already served 20 years of a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug crime. He was 24-years old when he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison; his life had hardly begun. Clarence is now 44-years old and a model prisoner. I cannot think of one good reason for him to sit in prison until he dies. That’s why I’m still hopeful that President Obama will do the right thing and commute Clarence’s sentence to right this wrong – one of many caus ed by our unjust sentencing laws. I hope others serving long sentences will be shown mercy, too. And I really hope that Congress will act and pass meaningful sentencing reform so that future generations don’t face the irrational and destructive mandatory sentencing laws that we have now.
Thinking about Clarence and so many others like him makes me thankful that I can spend Thanksgiving with my family. But it also makes me mad that so many others can’t, and that Mrs. Aaron has spent 20 holiday seasons away from her son. And it makes me even more motivated to get to work each morning to fight for reform.
I hope you’ll join me in this fight by making a contribution to FAMM. In fact, if you make a tax-deductible donation by the end of the year, your gift will be matched by another generous FAMM supporter who is just as outraged as I am that Clarence Aaron is still sitting behind bars.
Case Research Director, FAMM
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