In May 2007, my father was arrested by U.S. marshals. They had been investigating him for over a year. There was a sealed indictment on him, and he was being charged with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine. My dad’s trial lasted three days, and on December 19, 2007—my 17th birthday—the jury found him guilty.
I will never forget that day. Life as I knew it changed forever, my whole world was shattered. It was a huge smack in the face. I never saw it coming, hadn’t even considered such a harsh punishment. My father was a drug dealer, a non-violent offender. He wasn’t a murderer, or a rapist—he sold drugs. He raised my brothers and me by himself. He did what he had to do to take care of us, he did the best he could do. He was, and still is, a great dad. He made some bad choices, but that doesn’t make him a bad person.
It blows my mind that in the United States of America, a non-violent drug offender can be sentenced to life—and death—in prison. Murderers can serve a 6-8 year sentence for taking another human being’s life, and are allowed to return to society. A life sentence in the federal system is pretty much a very slow death. Most offenders die in prison, because there are no time reductions for good behavior, nothing to reduce the sentence.
My father missed out on so much of our lives because he was in prison. He wasn’t around to teach the boys how to drive a car or see any of us get our actual driver’s licenses. My dad wasn’t at my high school graduation, he didn’t get to see any of his children walk across the stage and receive a diploma. He now has two grandchildren, one of which he still hasn’t held or laid eyes on. My children don’t know their papaw, and it breaks my heart. I know he could be such a positive influence in their lives, a wonderful grandparent to both of them.
My dad has been locked up a long time, he has paid for his mistakes. He realizes he was wrong and has a new, positive outlook on life. My father has had a change of heart. He wants to mentor young adults who believe that selling drugs is the way to provide for their families. He wants people to know that it was not worth losing his freedom nor his life.
My dad has never been violent in his life and is expected to die in prison. He deserves a second chance. His kids deserve their dad again. If he was granted his freedom, we could be a normal and happy family for once. My kids would know what it is like to have a papaw, he would actually be able to meet them, hold them, play with them. He would be free man, and he would live a sober life, thankful for every second of it. He deserves a second chance, and to be able to start over.