Barack Obama, who admitted in his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, that he had used marijuana and cocaine (“maybe a little blow”), found room in his heart on Thursday to commute the prison sentences for eight people convicted of crack cocaine offenses.
One of those let off the hook just happened to be Reynolds Allen Wintersmith Jr., a cousin of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a huge Obama supporter who has been mentioned as a replacement for Attorney General Eric H. Holder. Wintersmith Jr. was 19 when he was arrested as a member of the Gangster Disciples and was sentenced to life in 1994 in Illinois for cocaine possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and its products.
Obama stated, “I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system. Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.”
Obama noted that the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act, which went into effect in 2010, was not in effect when the eight people were sentenced: “If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.” He added that Congress should reform sentencing guidelines so that “our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all.”
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), an advocacy group for some of the people Obama set free, was delighted. FAMM President Julie Stewart said, “We are excited for the families of those who were granted commutations today, and we are glad that President Obama recognized that these individuals were serving unnecessarily lengthy sentences. The bottom line, however, is that there are several thousand more where they came from.”