I'm writing this as my father fights for his freedom. In 2010, my father took a plea deal to a federal charge for conspiracy to distribute marijuana; he was sentenced to 17 years.
Today, he sits in a federal prison in California, the same state where marijuana has brought in $2.75 billion in legal sales.
In January 2018, California made recreational marijuana legal. This new development brought good news for our family and a new opportunity to challenge my father's sentencing and, hopefully, to return my father home. The law that made marijuana legal for recreational use was retroactive, challenging many past state-level convictions. In my father's case, his past convictions were used to label him as a career criminal, enhancing his sentence, leaving him with an absurd amount of time, for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. However, recently, his 1994 California marijuana conviction was dismissed and sealed.
With the news, my father has less than a year to bring his challenge to a court of law. While he has done much legwork and legal study, his imprisonment and our lack of funds, makes it difficult to put forward the best legal arguments.
In my fathers words:
"My name is Randolph R. Carr Jr. BOP Number #559208-112 and at the current time I'm fighting for my freedom!
I have been incarcerated going on nine years for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a Schedule I, non-narcotic controlled substance. At this time, I'm being held at USP Atwater, CA, a federal United States Penitentiary.
Harsh marijuana laws have contributed to mass incarceration, racial disparities in sentencing and excessive sentencing at the federal level.
Decriminalization of marijuana would set free hundreds of people in the federal system.
The outdated policies on marijuana are having devastating effects on individuals and communities across the country. My family has experienced first-hand how harmful policies can put pressure on the entire family. These harmful and outdated policies have turned every day Americans into criminals, torn apart families and wasted huge amounts of tax payers dollars to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate people for non-violent marijuana charges.
The differences in state and federal law have also created confusion and uncertainty in some states, such as California, where ordinary people do not have "fair notice" of the conduct being punished on the federal level. As long as marijuana is federally illegal, the disenfranchisement and racial disparities will continue to effect ordinary people.
The federal government tries to have it both ways by enhanced penalties for federal drug trafficking offenders, with huge mandatory sentences increases for drug offenders, who have a prior felony drug conviction (which are almost solely in the control of prosecutors and often called 851 enhancements..these 851 enhancements are almost always applied inconsistently, with wide geographic variation in the filings). The racial disparities are so obvious, while 851 enhancements have had a significant impact on all racial groups, it is clear that Black offenders are impacted most significantly.
Black offenders comprised the largest proportion of drug trafficking offenders (42.2%) eligible for an 851 enhancement in fiscal year 201. Black offenders constituted the majority (51.2%) of offenders against whom the government filed an information seeking an 851 enhancement, followed by white offenders (24.3%) and Hispanic offenders (22.5%) and other (2.0%).
There is much to be drawn from the above data, but an important first-take summary is that the data proves yet again how mandatory minimums, controlled by prosecutors, can often operate to create, rather than reduce, sentencing disparities and, disconcertingly, this information would suggest that Black defendants face the hardest brunt of these disparities.
I suffer from an 851 enhancement, for two prior marijuana convictions in the 90's (one in California and the other in Memphis). Both are no longer a prior conviction under new federal law challenging "vagueness" and California Prop 64. This unconstitutionally vague criminality was struck down with the Dimaya decision and a few others applicable to my situation.
I also suffer from the label of a career criminal. The challenge of my 851 enhancement and the dismissal of my prior convictions, stands between me and freedom from my situation.
The cost of my freedom is out of my reach for lack of funds to litigate my issues, with a lawyer, legal research and investigators, advocate groups and necessary support while incarcerated.
On a positive note, I have used this time to take some college classes and paralegal research correspondence classes to help myself reach freedom. But, these things have also used up all my funds. I would like to complete my college degree and correspondence classes in paralegal training.
I have been applying myself in a number of recidivism reduction programs, as well, such as culinary arts, computer skills, cognitive behavior, yoga, employment pre-release classes, advanced construction, and public speaking--just to name a few.
I have been using this time of incarceration to better myself to become more of an asset to society, my family and friends, and dedicating myself as an advocate to help those, like myself, held hostage to the system.
I have come to realize my full potential , each day I sit incarcerated, with self-actualization and deliberateness. I think of each decision I make very carefully . My objective once I'm free is to complete my college degree, go to culinary school and open a Caribbean catering truck (and, in the future, a restaurant).
I have learned from my mistakes and I have learned from my lack of knowledge, to reach for more positive goals. This will better prepare me for society and lessen my chance of relapsing into past criminal behavior."
With your help, our family would be able to hire a lawyer and take advantage of the changing tide in marijuana legislation. Click on this link to our Go Fund Me to donate.