Are All Drug Offenders Really Violent?: Hear Stories and Judge for Yourself

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Date(s) - 06/06/2016
12:15 pm

Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562


Some people claim that all people convicted of drug trafficking offenses are violent offenders. But in 2014, only 0.7 percent of more than 20,000 federal drug offenders used threats or violence. Come meet people who have been impacted by decades-long sentences for drug offenses, even though the cases involved no violence, and judge for yourself: Are all drug offenders really violent?  

Special Short Film Screening: The Story of Mandy Martinson

Lunch will be served.

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Speaker Biographies 

Debi Campbell: In 1994, Ms. Campbell was convicted of and received a sentence of nearly 20 years in federal prison for a nonviolent drug trafficking offense. After she became addicted to methamphetamine, she started selling the drug to support her habit. In exchange for a lighter sentence, the informant in Debi’s case claimed that she sold over 10 kilograms of the drug – a much higher quantity than Debi had actually sold, and the reason for her lengthy sentence. During her 16 years in prison, Debi completed drug treatment and earned a college degree. She is the mother of four daughters, is a proud grandmother, has been drug-free for more than 20 years, and lives in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. She works for FAMM as a communications outreach associate, helping others impacted by long sentences tell their stories and advocate for reform.

Sherman Chester: In 1994, Mr. Chester received a mandatory life without parole sentence for cocaine and heroin offenses. Mr. Chester used and sold small amounts of drugs as part of a conspiracy run by a family friend. The judge strongly objected to the mandatory sentence, stating, “This man doesn’t deserve a life sentence, and there is no way that I can legally keep from giving it to him.” After serving more than 20 years in prison, Mr. Chester’s sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama on December 18, 2015. He is currently finishing his sentence at a halfway house in Tampa, Florida, where he enjoys spending time with his sisters on the weekends. He is currently employed as an electrician, a job he loves and a trade he became certified to practice while he was in prison.

Marcy Thompson: Ms. Thompson is the cousin of Mandy Martinson, an Iowa woman serving 15 years in federal prison for a nonviolent drug offense. After leaving an abusive relationship, the trauma of domestic violence led Mandy into what she describes as a “self-destructive rampage.” Occasional drug use at parties turned into a full-blown addiction to methamphetamine. Mandy began dating a drug dealer who provided her with free drugs. They dated for one month before both were arrested at her home. Though Mandy herself did not sell drugs, she was convicted of conspiracy to traffic drugs and was sentenced for all of the drugs and two handguns brought into her home by her then-boyfriend. She received a longer sentence than he did, despite being a first-time offender. Before sentencing, Mandy completed drug treatment and resumed her work as a dental hygienist. Her judge said that the mandatory minimum sentence was too long because Mandy was not a threat to the public. Through letters and emails, Marcy has maintained a deep relationship with Mandy during her incarceration. Ms. Thompson lives in Colorado.  

Panel Moderator – Molly Gill: Ms. Gill is FAMM’s director of federal legislative affairs and works with policymakers, the media, and the public to advocate for sentencing laws that are cost-effective, fit the crime and the individual, protect individual liberty, and strengthen families and communities. Prior to coming to FAMM in 2007, Gill practiced construction and commercial litigation and assisted with prosecuting homicides, gang crimes, and gun offenses for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota.