Is My 45-Year Sentence Reasonable?

By · Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Maria Iniguez reviewed an article I wrote about PSI reports and posted two questions. She asked whether I thought the 45-year sentence my judge imposed was reasonable for the types of crimes I committed. She also wanted to know whether the PSI could have left out information that might have influenced a lighter sentence. 

When I was in my early twenties I engaged in a scheme to distribute cocaine. Only consenting adults were involved with me, and I did not use weapons or violence. This was my first time in confinement. Given those facts, I stand convinced that the 45-year sentence I received was inappropriately severe and inconsistent with an enlightened society. 

Certainly, by having willingly and knowingly broken America’s drug laws, I was deserving of criminal sanctions. The sentence Judge Jack Tanner imposed, however, feels disproportionate to the crime. I am not complaining, but responding to the question. I have served 21-plus years thus far, and I believe that I have served it with dignity. The good time associated with my sentence means that I have been scheduled to serve 26 years of my sentence in prison. Although I recognize the bias in my assessment, I feel that such lengthy sentences for nonviolent crimes are not only unreasonable, but harmful to the fabric of society. 

As a consequence of the sentence Judge Tanner imposed, I will not conclude my imprisonment until I am 49. I will not have a work history or a retirement plan. I will not have too many years to earn enough of an income to provide for my senior years. I will not own a home, a car, or even clothes to wear upon release. I will not have insurance. An ancillary consequence of being locked in prison during my early 20s, and scheduled for release just before I turn 50, is that I will never have a child. I must use the time I have available to provide for those years when I will be too old to earn an income.

The probation officer who prepared my PSI recommended that I receive a 15-year sentence. My judge, however, obviously felt convinced that he needed to impose a severe sentence. I think the PSI report that my probation officer prepared reflected my culpability in the offense accurately, but the sentence imposed was too severe. 

Our nation now confines more than 2.3 million people, many of whom serve lengthy sentences for non-violent offenses. Such sentences, I am convinced, fail our society. That is one of the reasons I work tirelessly to influence prison reform legislation.

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One Response to “Is My 45-Year Sentence Reasonable?”

  1. Sliloh says:

    I tried to make a pingback to this post and I’m so annoyed that those refuse to work for me. Anyway, here’s the post: Working on your blog has been educational to say the least. Of course, I already knew that our justice system needs a lot of work.