Written by Ben Carter
Earlier this week, the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder announced the Obama Administration would consider additional clemency applications from those serving time in jail for nonviolent drug offenses. Essentially, the United States’ head-lawyer-in-charge said the President would reconsider the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders, and where appropriate, offer a Presidential Pardon.
A brief history lesson: In the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan began the campaign known as the “War on Drugs”. The War on Drugs was essentially a national push to get drugs, namely crack cocaine, off the streets. The campaign resulted in a national strategy where states imposed “mandatory minimums” for even the most benign drug offenses. In his announcement, Holder makes mention of two individuals offered clemency in past years who each served 15 years in jail, for first-time drug offenses.
On MYDM we like to think of ourselves as inspiring the conversations we have about money. You might be wondering why we’re talking about drugs and clemency applications. Please allow us to continue.
The United State puts more of its citizens in jail than any other country in the world. At the end of 2012, 6.94 million people were either in jail, on probation or under some other form of correctional control. Just under half of these people are in jail for drug offenses. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, one in every 36 Latino/Hispanic males, age 18 or older are under correctional control and one in every 15 Black/African-American males, age 18 or older are under correctional control.
It still may not be apparent why we’re discussing clemency on a blog and show about money.
In most modern societies, the almighty green rules. By green, we don’t mean weed, we mean money. Our country knows families who have “ruled” for years. The Cox Family, the Newhouse Family, the family of John D. Rockefeller and plenty others have amassed great deals of wealth that have been earned and multiplied in part by their tradition of passing down the family business.
But what if your family business was interrupted by a stay in the state prison because of a bad decision? If it’s still not apparent why we are discussing the importance of the President accepting added clemency applications, we’ll put it like this; people taken to jail for drug offenses have had their opportunity to build “wealth” taken away or severely augmented.
The two individuals the attorney general mentions in his video served 15 years in prison for having possessed an illegal drug. Not only did they lose their freedom, they lost their chance to pass on their (legal) family business, whether it be waitressing, working at the local dry cleaner or auto shop. Furthermore, they lost their chance to support and enrich their communities in the exact same way the Rockefeller family has had the chance to enrich their own. (No pun intended).
The U.S. Attorney General and the Obama Administration recognize the impact mandatory minimums have had on our country and many communities' ability to support itself. Yesterday’s announcement isn’t just an attempt to adjust what many see as a generational wrong. It’s also the restoration of the promise that in America, a person can do their best to earn a living and pass opportunity, and in some cases wealth, on to the next generation.