Monday, November 24, 2008

A Letter From Prison

By a woman who was initially sentenced to like four lifetimes for running errands and wiring money for her cousin's crack cocaine business:

Her cousin was dealing crack cocaine at the time. While she never sold drugs, Lomax wired money and ran errands for him. He was arrested, and Lomax was charged as a co-conspirator in the drug-selling operation. Around this time, she converted to Islam, choosing the name Hamedah ("one who praises") Hasan. Refusing an offer of a lighter sentence if she testified against her cousin, she was found guilty and given two life sentences, two 40-year sentences, two 20-year sentences, a five and a four year sentence—despite the fact that she was a first time non-violent offender. Federal Judge Richard Kopf stated publicly he would have given her a fraction of that time had he not been bound by harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines, which had been rushed through Congress in the 1980s.

Her sentence was reduced to 12 years, then increased on appeal by the government to 27 years. So that's what it is, right now. There are first-degree murderers who get away with a shorter sentence.

The lessons to learn from Hasan's story are many, of course. But note that bad laws tend to stick around for a very long time. It might be a good idea not to rush them through so very fast in the future.