Post Date: June 4, 2014
Donel was sentenced to 35 years in prison as a first-time offender for his role in a nonviolent crack cocaine conspiracy. President Obama granted him a commutation on March 31, 2015, and he was released on July 28, 2015.
Donel Marcus Clark has already served more than two decades of a 35-year prison sentence for his involvement in a nonviolent drug conspiracy – his first and only offense. During his time in prison, Donel has maintained a perfect disciplinary record, earned outstanding work reviews, taken numerous classes and worked hard to better himself. He has also preserved his close relationships with his family, maintaining as active a role in his children’s lives as prison permits.
During his own childhood, Donel lived with his mother and stepfather from when he was 5 to 10 years old, when his stepfather’s abusive behavior toward Donel’s mother caused them to separate. Three years later, Donel’s mother passed away after a hard battle with cancer. Donel lived with his grandmother, continued high school and worked a part-time job at a grocery store. He moved out on his own after graduating, continued to work, and took courses at a local community college. All in all, things were going well for Donel and by 1990, he was married with three sons. Unfortunately, he and his family encountered financial hardship and Donel made a mistake that would cost him – and his family – dearly.
In the early 1990s, Donel had recently reconnected with a former classmate of his who was involved in distributing drugs. Concerned about providing for his family during a financially trying time, Donel became involved in his friend’s conspiracy as a cook. He was responsible for converting powder cocaine into crack cocaine and for supervising others in the “kitchen crew.” Law enforcement began investigating and conspiracy and in 1992, Donel was indicted along with seven codefendants.
Donel remained free during his trial, successfully abiding by the law and his conditions of release. The following year, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Donel’s judge was bound by the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines and acknowledged his lack of discretion at sentencing. Even the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Donel believes his sentence was too harsh.
Since his incarceration, Donel has worked hard to keep himself on a path of self-improvement. He takes full responsibility for his role in the drug conspiracy and both acknowledges and regrets the harm it caused his community.While his incarceration has had negative consequences for his family members, Donel has managed to maintain close relationships with them. His three sons are now adults themselves, and they visit Donel as often as possible, but the distance takes its toll. Donel has missed many milestones in his family’s life, and wants nothing more than to be able to celebrate his loved ones’ accomplishments and big moments in person.
The Facts: Donel Marcus Clark
Original sentence: 35 years (reduced to 30 years in 2008 due to a retroactive change to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines; commuter on March 31, 2015)
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; illegal use of a communications facility; aid/abet using a residence near a school for drug transactions
Year sentenced: 1993
Age at sentencing: 29
Original projected release date: July 28, 2019*
*On March 31, 2015, President Obama granted Donel a commutation (reduction of sentence). He was released on July 28, 2015.