Rabiah Burks, 202-822-6700
FAMM APPLAUDS THE IMMINENT RELEASE OF MATTHEW CHARLES
Charles likely is the first beneficiary of the First Step Act.
WASHINGTON – The national criminal justice reform organization FAMM applauds the imminent release of Matthew Charles, likely the first beneficiary of the First Step Act. A federal judge today in Tennessee resentenced Charles to time served, making him eligible to leave prison as early as today. Charles’ case made national headlines and sparked calls for the commutation of his sentence when he received early release from prison, turned his life around, but was sent back due to an error by the court.
“We are ecstatic for Matthew and his family and friends,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. “We think he is the first beneficiary of the First Step Act. We can’t think of a better person to demonstrate the value and importance of second chances.
“Matthew’s story caught the public’s attention in a way few cases have. People who have never met him are crying with happiness today over news of his release. There is a sense that justice – even if delayed – is still possible,” Ring said.
Charles was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine and buying guns under an assumed name. He was released in 2016 after a federal judge ruled that Charles should benefit from the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, a law that reduced sentences for crack-related crimes. An appeals court reversed the judge’s decision, and Charles was forced to return to prison last May after a year and a half of freedom. Fortunately, the First Step Act, which was signed into law in December, included a provision to apply the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively, which the government agreed would allow for Charles’ immediate release.
FAMM has advocated the release of Charles since being alerted to his case. Ring wrote an op-ed in the Hillabout Charles’ case and started a change.org petition, which garnered more than 138,000 signatures. Naomi Tharpe, a vocal FAMM member and friend of Charles, spoke about his case at the Families for Justice Reform Rally in August of last year. His case has been covered by NPR, New York Times, Dana Perino, and more.
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.
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