For Cut 50:


The history of federal mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses dates back to the 1950s, when a mandatory 10-year sentence could be imposed for crimes such as selling heroin to a juvenile. 


In the 60s, then-President Richard Nixon proposed sentencing reforms that would eventually result in nearly all mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses being repealed. But the alarming rise of cocaine use, particularly crack cocaine, in the 1980s sent Congress scrambling to react to the epidemic and prompted the hasty revival of the laws that had been viewed so unfavorably two decades before.

Though the primary goal of legislation such as The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was to target and successfully prosecute "kingpins" or major drug traffickers, thousands of low-level offenders have been swept up and imprisoned based on outdated guidelines.

Sharanda Jones was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1999 for conspiracy to traffic cocaine. This was her first offense. Jones was granted clemency by President Obama in 2015. Jones is seen here at a Texas halfway house just weeks before her full release.

 
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Sharanda Jones outside of her apartment in Dallas, Texas after being released from prison.  

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Rita Becerra: sentenced to 27 years in 1994 for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Becerra, 66, has one son, one daughter, and four grandchildren. Her clemency petition was denied in 2016. This was her first offense.

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Rita Becerra: sentenced to 27 years in 1994 for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Becerra, 66, has one son, one daughter, and four grandchildren. Her clemency petition was denied in 2016. This was her first offense.

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Jason Hernandez was a first time nonviolent drug offender when he received a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. He served 17 years before his sentence was commuted by President Obama on December 19, 2013. He is photographer here visiting his brother's grave, who was murdered in prison. 

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Jason Hernandez was a first time nonviolent drug offender when he received a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. He served 17 years before his sentence was commuted by President Obama on December 19, 2013. He is photographed here at the corner where he sold his first bag of marijuana.

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Crystal Munoz: sentenced to 19 years and 10 months in 2007 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Munoz, 38, has two daughters.
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Crystal Munoz: sentenced to 19 years and 10 months in 2007 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Munoz, 38, has two daughters.
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Deneise Quintanilla: sentenced to to life in 2001 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Quintanilla, 49, has two sons and one daughter. She was granted clemency by President Obama in 2017.

 

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Deneise Quintanilla: sentenced to to life in 2001 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Quintanilla, 49, has two sons and one daughter. She was granted clemency by President Obama in 2017.

 
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Tim was supposed to die in prison. At 24 years old, he was given two life sentences for selling LSD. But after 26 years behind bars, Tim became a free man thanks to a clemency granted by President Obama. On May 29, 2018 Tim walked out of prison in Jesup, GA and began the over 2,000 mile bus ride to Las Vegas, NV to be reunited with his sister Carrie who worked tirelessly for his release all these years.

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Tim was supposed to die in prison. At 24 years old, he was given two life sentences for selling LSD. But after 26 years behind bars, Tim became a free man thanks to a clemency granted by President Obama. On May 29, 2018 Tim walked out of prison in Jesup, GA and began the over 2,000 mile bus ride to Las Vegas, NV to be reunited with his sister Carrie who worked tirelessly for his release all these years.

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Nancy Ferneau: sentenced to 25 years in 2003 for conspiracy to sell, manufacture, and distribute methamphetamine and marijuana. Feneau is 65 years old and has two daughters.

 

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Nancy Ferneau: sentenced to 25 years in 2003 for conspiracy to sell, manufacture, and distribute methamphetamine and marijuana. Feneau is 65 years old and has two daughters.

 

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Rose Ella Summers: sentenced to 24 years and four months in 1997 for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and money laundering. Summers, 47, has one son. This was her first offense.

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Rose Ella Summers: sentenced to 24 years and four months in 1997 for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and money laundering. Summers, 47, has one son. This was her first offense.

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Michelle Miles was a first time nonviolent drug offender when she received a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base. She served 19 years before receiving clemency from President Obama.

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Michelle Miles was a first time nonviolent drug offender when she received a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base. She served 19 years before receiving clemency from President Obama.

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