President Commutes Life Without Parole Sentence of ACLU Client Douglas Ray Dunkins Jr.

June 3, 2016 3:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama today commuted the sentences of 42 people, including Douglas Ray Dunkins Jr., 50, who has been serving life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense since he was 26. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Dunkins in his application for clemency and featured him in the report “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses.”

“Over two decades ago, Douglas was sent to prison to die for a nonviolent drug offense. That sentence was so extreme that the judge who handed it down has recognized its excessiveness,” said Ezekiel Edwards, Douglas’s attorney and director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. “Almost 25 years later, President Obama has opened a door for Douglas, allowing him to rebuild the life that our failed war on drugs destroyed.”

“The most important thing to me about freedom is caring for my parents. Their health is going downhill,” wrote Dunkins from El Reno federal prison in Oklahoma last July. “Also, I haven’t been able to see my daughters grow into young ladies, and I haven’t had the benefit of assisting my sisters as a brother should — let alone just living life as a free person.”

Dunkins, who was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture and sell crack cocaine, will be released from El Reno in October. He will return to his family in Texas. At El Reno, he held various jobs, completed multiple educational and vocational programs, and became a certified paralegal, helping fellow prisoners with legal matters.

For “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses,” visit:

For more information about Clemency Project 2014, visit:

For more information about the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, visit:

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