Below is a sample letter to help guide you in writing your own heartfelt letter of support.
President Barack Obama
c/o Office of the Pardon Attorney
1425 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
RE: Commutation Petition of Sharanda Jones, #33177-077
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of Sharanda Jones and her family, I humbly request that you grant Sharanda's request for commutation. Sharanda is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole as a non-violent first-time offender for her participation in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Since Sharanda has no chance of parole, she is set to die in prison for her first conviction – felony or otherwise.
[Insert your own thoughts about Sharanda's case here, or you can use a variation of the following language: [I learned about Sharanda's case through [my pastor, her lawyer, her family, her website, a friend] [I have known Sharanda since ___________] I feel that Sharanda is deserving of a second chance and forgiveness. She fully accepts responsibility for her actions, has become a strong woman of faith, has an excellent behavioral record, and has served as a mentor to other inmates and at-risk youth through the SHARE Program while she has been in prison. She has been rehabilitated and has a loving and supportive family and community waiting to help her if she is released. Furthermore, her release is absolutely essential to her daughter. Sharanda's daughter, who was only 8 years old when Sharanda was sent to prison, is now a 22-year old young adult woman. She needs her mother now more than ever during these precious formative years of early adulthood. The mother-daughter bond is invaluable and if Sharanda is release she will be able to resume an active, physical presence in her daughter's life.
[You can also insert a variation of one of the following paragraphs]
Life without parole is the second most severe penalty permitted by law in America. This severe penalty should not be imposed on first-time non-violent drug offenders. For nearly 25 years, Congress required federal courts to impose severe mandatory minimum sentences on crack cocaine offenders – mostly racial minorities – based on assumptions about crack cocaine now universally recognized to be unfounded. Crack cocaine is without a doubt a terrible societal problem. However, the involvement in drugs by a first-time non-violent offender should not constitute a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.
There have been paramount developments in Congress regarding the disparity in penalties related to powder cocaine and crack cocaine that tell us one thing – the crack cocaine penalties under which Sharanda was sentenced were unfair. Sharanda's sentencing judge did not take into account the crack/powder disparity – a disparity that Congress and the United States Sentencing Commission have repeatedly attempted to resolve. Sharanda has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole as first-time nonviolent offender under a sentencing scheme that has since been publicly denounced by members of Congress. As the late Third Circuit Chief Judge Becker lyrically pointed out, "wisdom too often never comes and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes too late."
I respectfully ask you to let Sharanda go home. She admits she broke the law and deserves to be punished, but a life sentence as a first-time non-violent offender is too long. Sharanda has served over 14 years of her sentence and has been a model inmate. Her drug supplier, who was more blameworthy and was involved with a much larger quantity of drugs than Sharanda, received a much shorter sentence as has already been released. Sharanda's continued incarceration will cost taxpayers money that would be better spent on other things. I support Sharanda's clemency request and respectfully ask you to show her mercy and let her go home to be reunited with one and only child. She does not deserve to die in prison. Thank you for considering my views.
[Sign Your Full Name]
[Include Your Address]