Matthew Charles was convicted of drug and weapons charges in the mid-90s. He already had a record by the point so the feds argued that he was a “career offender.” He got 35 years — but was set free after 21 thanks to the Obama administration’s new guidelines for offenses involving crack, which were punished
at the time with far more draconian sentences than those for cocaine. In those 21 years in prison he found God and, by all accounts, became a new man.
From Nashville Public Radio:
Since his release in 2016, Charles has held a steady job. He volunteers every Saturday, has reconnected with his family, and started a serious relationship. But really, his rehabilitation started years prior.
In prison, he took college classes and correspondence courses, he taught a GED program and got certified as a law clerk. With his training, he helped other incarcerated men understand the judicial system long after their public defenders moved on to the next case.
Charles kept the secrets of those who were illiterate so they wouldn’t face ridicule or harassment — he read them letters from the court and drafted filings for them in the library. He organized bible studies and counseled newcomers. Two decades in federal institutions — from maximum to low security — without a single disciplinary infraction.
The federal government appealed his early release, arguing that Charles didn’t get his stiff 35-year sentence because he had sold crack. He got it because he was a career offender. And the new Obama guidelines said nothing about reducing sentences for people like that.
An appellate court, reviewing the record, agreed with the feds. The new sentencing guidelines didn’t apply in his case. (…)
And so Charles, despite having been released by the federal government and lived as a free man for years, will have to go back to prison and serve another decade to atone for their error. “
Justice? I agree with AP; President Trump should commute this man’s sentence and, perhaps, keep him on a list of potential pardons.
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