Good, But Not Enough: Woman Released 17 Years Into Life Sentence for Nonviolent Drug Offense
The commutation of her sentence was welcome, but it won't give Stephanie George back her lost years. And many others suffer similarly.
Seventeen years after being sentenced to life in prison under Florida’s draconian drug laws for her involvement in a nonviolent drug offense, Stephanie George has been released, as NPR reports. But she’ll hardly reclaim the life she had before she was incarcerated at the age of 26—her grandparents, her father and her youngest son all passed away while she was inside.
George, now 44, was originally sentenced after police discovered a kilo of cocaine and more than $10,000 in her attic, both of which belonged to her ex-boyfriend. With two prior small-time drug offenses to her name, she was sentenced to a mandatory minimum life term in 1997. Many other low-level drug offenders in Florida are incarcerated under laws originally designed to penalize drug kingpins.
Her sister Wendy said that when George left, “A part of me was missing…just like somebody had died.” Miraculously, President Barack Obama was concerned enough to commute her sentence at the end of last year.
Far too many drug “offenders” in the US have their lives, and those of their families, blighted by inhumane sentences, especially mandatory minimums, which take away a judge’s discretion. About 60% of all federal drug offenders in the US are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence each year. One example is regular Substance.com contributor Seth Ferranti, who was released this year after spending 21 years in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense.
Although efforts to roll back mandatory minimum sentencing laws around the country are under way, spearheaded by organizations like FAMM, Florida still upholds laws that treat drug users the same as traffickers.
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