Kemba Smith in USA Today on the Wisdom of Pardons

There is an excellent op-ed in today's USA Today from Kemba Smith urging President Bush to grant clemency requests for those men and women serving lengthy prison sentences for low-level and often first-time drug offenses.

Kemba's voice on this issue is especially important because it comes from a very personal place. She knows better than most the harsh reality of America's war on drugs and the impact of draconian mandatory minimum sentences.

But for a last-minute grant of clemency from President Clinton in 2000, Kemba would still be serving the nearly 25-year drug conspiracy sentence in federal prison she received in 1994 in connection to her then boyfriend's crack cocaine dealing. This was despite the fact that it was a first-time, non-violent offense in which even prosecutors acknowledged that she never sold, handled or used any of the drugs involved in the conspiracy. Are such sentences really the best use of our tax dollars or lost potential in human lives?

I think Kemba's own words provide the answer:

Today, I could be in federal prison still serving my 24-year sentence. Instead, I've been raising my now 13-year-old son, graduated from college in 2002 and completed a year of law school. I own a home and speak to youth about the importance of their choices and the consequences that can affect their lives forever. My own experience led me to create a non-profit foundation that focuses on providing children of incarcerated parents with a mentor, and collaborates with other organizations on justice-reform initiatives.

My story of redemption does not need to be an anomaly. Thousands of petitions for executive clemency are pending before President Bush with a month left in his term. The majority of those are unknown to him or the public. Many are people of color caught up in the war on drugs and serving long mandatory minimum sentences, often for low-level offenses. The president should expedite such applications and grant them clemency.

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The system is not perfect. We need to have procequtors that file the right charges. I tend to doubt the statements of Kimba on how innocent she is. A jury found her guilty, so there must have been more to it than she is telling every one. I have heard too many criminals crying the same story. Ithink we need harsher sentencing for drug dealers. They say it is a nonviolent crime, but the havoc it reeks on society tells a different story. Make it so drug dealers do not exist. It is by far worse than any hate crime.


The war on drugs only benefits those who would like to live in a police state.


The war on drugs benifits who? The men in prison may be doing the time and doing nothing when they could be working helping the family that was left behind,we were sentence right along with them,the prisoners should be allowed to do work there are 201113 federal prisoners that could be working helping to build a better America...non-violent drug offenders.

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