I wrote a piece a while back about the outrageously high sentences that seem to regularly come out of Smith County (Tyler). Today, I was confronted with yet another doozy from good ole Smith Co.
I am going to interview a man in about two weeks who is serving a life sentence for possession of a controlled substance. Yep, you read that correctly. Life! Normally, as you might guess, possessing drugs does not get you a life sentence. It appears Smith County treats theses kind of situations quite a bit differently than the rest of the world. Naturally, I am curious about how the man ended up with such a severe sentence, other than being prosecuted in Smith County, in a case where there is no weapon, no dead body, no rape, etc.
When I glanced at the file today and spoke to the inmate’s sister, I learned that he has had several drug possession cases over the years, and a drug habit that has plagued him for many years, but that he is also a very nice man, is not violent, and never has been violent. He was raised in a very tough part of Dallas where many young men sold drugs for money, or used drugs, or both. I will have the opportunity to more fully probe this man’s crimes and his life story during the upcoming interview, and I intend to look very carefully and somehow find a way to speed up his ability to go home.
One obvious point in this man’s story is that, regardless of the date he is released from TDCJ, he will ALWAYS be on parole, and therefore, he can be drug tested for the rest of his life. Moreover, he is always going to be subject to parole revocation if he is arrested for a new crime, among other grounds for parole revocation.
As soon as I gather the information, I always have an ethical duty to tell the inmate what I think about the chances for making the next parole, and what I say is sometimes not what he/she wants to hear. I hope I get the opportunity to help this man, because it appears nobody in Smith County was worried about his future or his drug problem.