Early Release: Who the Drug Felons Are and Where They’ll Go

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Early prison release will test drug felons, re-entry groups.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — She was the queen of the “OK Corral,” a tot-toting grandmother who stepped up to rent out street corners and run the bustling cocaine trade in her north Philadelphia neighborhood after her 20-year-old son was gunned down. — Lincoln Steve White, 43, who was caught buying 2 ounces of cocaine for $1,400 in Florida in 2008 and has served more than five years of a seven-year sentence. — Chedrick Crummie, 45, who’s leaving prison after serving 21 years for cocaine trafficking in South Florida, and has a janitorial job lined up through a local minister. Sentencing Commission now deems to be overly harsh — and expensive — drug laws enacted during the era’s “War on Drugs.” Whatever their hopes and dreams, the thousands of inmates returning to communities across the U.S. may find re-entry more difficult than they imagined. And it’s unclear — from Associated Press interviews with lawyers, prisoner advocates, parole officials and a federal judge — how much support they’ll find. “Some are coming out after three years, some after 20,” said Elizabeth Toplin, a federal public defender who reviewed about 800 drug cases in the Philadelphia region. “It’s a different world.

Unless we intervene properly, when people come home, they just don’t have the resources not to go back.” Jose Antonio Pagan plans to seek work, possibly in marine mechanics, after his sentence for smuggling hundreds of kilos of cocaine by boat from the Bahamas to Florida was cut from 14 to 11 years. Pagan said his life derailed after he “drifted to a singular crime of monumental consequences.” He and his wife are divorcing, but he said his parents will take him in. “You’ve got a bunch of people coming back, and once they’re here they have very basic human needs, and those are housing, employment and the family reunification factor,” said Tina Naidoo, executive director of the Dallas-based Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative, which has 10 full-time employees and hopes to recruit volunteers to handle the additional caseload. How different states are handling the mass release: — In Georgia, U.S. probation officers expect to see nearly 60 new offenders released the first week of November, 10 times the normal load. In Philadelphia, five or 10 people of the 45 getting early release will be tapped for an intensive probation program for at-risk offenders known as Re-Entry Court. But the office has been working with family members and service providers to prioritize the caseload. “We want to make sure we help people get off to a good start, like we would if we had six cases coming out in the course of a week,” said Robert Long, the chief U.S. probation officer for the Middle District, based in Macon.

The program — which says it has cut recidivism in half, to about 20 percent of the nearly 240 participants in the past five years — offers a broad array of social services, including counseling, tutoring, housing, health care and job training, most provided by volunteers. “They can’t do it alone. — In Texas, where Volunteers for America operates two federal halfway houses, officials have been moving people out to the community to make beds available for the next wave leaving prison. Magistrate Timothy Rice, a former federal prosecutor who helped start the program in 2007. “The odds are stacked against them unless somebody reaches out to help walk them through this.” All participants being released are drug offenders. She’s spent the last quarter-century at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, just a few miles from home, where her family’s “Gray Tape” posse once slugged it out with rival gangs to control the $1.5 million-a-month neighborhood drug trade. “I think she never thought that she would be tried, and never in 100 years did she expect to get life,” said Carina Laguzzi, a private lawyer working with Rusen’s granddaughter to win her release. “I have guys who have shot people, maimed people, and they’re not serving life.” Contributing to this report were Associated Press reporters Curt Anderson in Miami; Donald Thompson in Sacramento, California; Will Weissert in Austin, Texas; Kate Brumback in Atlanta; Jim Salter in St.

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