ACLU Files Commutation Petition On Behalf Of Man Serving Unjust Prison Sentence For Non-Violent Crime
|> TAKE ACTION: Ask President Obama to Commute Kenneth Lumpkin's Prison Sentencing Today|
|> THE PEOPLE
the stories behind the sentences
|> THE ISSUE
the unjust crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity
|> THE PRESIDENT
the power of forgiveness
The story behind the sentence. On the morning of December 30, 1996, Kenneth Jackson Lumpkin appeared in United States District Court in Los Angeles for sentencing. It was only a couple of weeks after his thirtieth birthday and a few months after a jury found him guilty of conspiring to possess crack cocaine with the intent to distribute. Kenneth had never before been to prison. In fact, his sentencing judge, the Honorable Dickran Tevrizian, found that Kenneth had only one criminal history point and was therefore in the lowest criminal history category under the federal sentencing guidelines. Nevertheless the mandatory minimum sentence for his crack cocaine offense was 20-years; the judge's hands were tied.
Significantly, if instead Kenny's offense had involved powder instead of crack cocaine — the same quantity of the same drug in a different form — his mandatory minimum would have been ten years and not twenty. Kenny would have already served his entire sentence and would now be home. Mr. Lumpkin's case is a prime example of the unjust, unsupportable, and discredited "crack-powder disparity" that Congress recently reduced but did not eliminate.
In that way, Mr. Lumpkin's case is, sadly, not unique. Thousands of men and women in this country, the great majority of whom are underprivileged, racial minorities, have been sentenced to draconian sentences based on a sentencing scheme that previously treated fifty grams of crack cocaine — the weight of ten nickels and a quantity yielding between 100 and 500 doses — the same as five kilograms of powder cocaine — the weight of a bowling ball and a quantity yielding between 25,000 and 50,000 doses.
Although the excessive punishment resulting from the crack-powder disparity affects many more lives than just Kenny's, his case is unique for his extraordinary rehabilitation during the first fourteen years of his 20-year sentence. Though originally housed in a medium-security prison, he has now been at a fence-less minimum-security camp for several years. At the camp, Kenny has taken virtually all of the college courses available to him; he teaches two art classes per week to fellow inmates; he is an active participant in his Native American religious group; he is the organizer and league chairman of the inmate softball league; he was selected by the prison staff to serve as the unit clerk, a position of trust held by very few inmates; and, perhaps most importantly, he is the executive chairman of a group called Those Outspoken Against Drugs (T.O.A.D.) — a select group of inmates who speak to teenagers at local schools and juvenile halls about the dangers of drugs, taking responsibility for one's own actions, and making good choices.
His conduct at the camp has earned the respect and sincere admiration not only of fellow inmates — both long-timers and those recently incarcerated — but also of members of the prison staff, including the Associate Warden, who have all written to declare their support for Mr. Lumpkin's early release. Indeed, United States District Judge David O. Carter, who presided over Kenny's motion to reduce his sentence in light of the retroactive changes to the sentencing guidelines for crack, "praise[d] Lumpkin for the efforts to rehabilitate himself" before reluctantly concluding that "the law as it stands does not allow for this Court to reduce Lumpkin's sentence." Finally, as noted in the letters attached to this Petition, Mr. Lumpkin has managed, as best he can, to be a loving and caring father, son, and friend to so many "on the outside." Read the ACLU's letter of support for Kenneth >>
As of the filing of this petition, Mr. Lumpkin still has approximately three years until he reaches his release date (he has received good time credit, which has mildly shortened his remaining sentence). Everyone who has worked with Kenny or considered his present situation has arrived at the same conclusion: his rehabilitation is extraordinary and complete; he has more than paid his debt to society; and he is ready to return to his family and community. Importantly, with strong community and family support, Kenny has already secured commitments for employment and housing upon his release. Take Action: Ask President Obama to Commute Kenneth Lumpkin's Prison Sentencing Today >>
IN HIS OWN WORDS...
> Read Kenneth’s letter to President Obama