Imagine that back in your mid 20’s, you made a few mistakes and broke a few laws, three of them
to be exact. No, you did not kill anyone, you did not rob, you did not rape, you did not harm anyone
in any way. You were a follower of the “Grateful Dead” and spent several tours following the band around selling beer, nitrous balloons and LSD to your friends and fellow “Deadheads.” You were
busted twice for possession and selling, but never sent to prison to learn any lessons. You were held in county jail a couple of times until you could make bail, and also sent to a mental ward/detox facility. However, upon your 3rd conviction at age 25, instead of receiving an expected 10 or 20 year term that your "public defender" promised, our court system locked you away, and literally threw away the key.
Timothy Tyler is currently serving a LIFE SENTENCE WITHOUT PAROLE.
Tim has served 20 years, he is now 45 years old... and there is no end in sight to this nightmare.
The “Three Strikes” laws began in California, and were never designed for non-violent offenders
like Tim. The creation of these laws were well intended, a result of some violent and offensive
crimes, and the idea was to keep dangerous, repeat offenders off of the streets so that they could
never harm anyone in the future. Prosecutors and judges have utilized this power in
thousands of non-violent cases and you often hear injustices reported in the media
when someone with a third strike conviction gets 10 years for stealing a loaf of bread,
or 20 years for stealing a car radio, etc. However cases like that cannot compare with how the law
is being utilized against the "War on Drugs." As a result you have the unthinkable:
kids who make non-violent mistakes in their youth mixed up in drugs are sentenced to spend
THE REST OF THEIR LIVES IN PRISON.
There are some who will have the attitude of “you commit the crime, you do the time.” And I understand that... however, this is not doing the time. This is spending the rest of your days in
prison until you die. I also understand that drugs can harm, and sometimes kill innocent people, and
those that sell or distribute those drugs should be held accountable. If someone dies as a result of a drug, there are mandatory federal prison penalties for those responsible- and I think that justice can be served. But when you examine the cases of someone like Tim, with no direct victims, what is the motivation for confining a person for 60 or 70 years until they die, never experiencing freedom?
In our system, going to prison is supposed to be for retribution and justice, to
hopefully rehabilitate the criminal and also to be a deterrent for future criminals. Can one honestly say that a kid selling drugs as a 25 year old deserves to die in prison? How can this be compared to
child molesters, rapists, murderers, and sadistic individuals in our society that commit the most vile acts against humanity, and are back on the street in 20 years after serving their time, finding religion, becoming educated and exhibiting good behavior for their parole boards?
Prior to his incarceration, Tim enjoyed going to Grateful Dead shows. He was arrested twice for possession of LSD, but he did not go to jail either time- he got only probation. Then one day in 1992, a "friend" of his was arrested for selling marijuana. In situations like this, the way it commonly works is that the authorities will go easier on an apprehended drug dealer if they cooperate with them and help them to catch someone else. And so that's what exactly happened here: this "friend" requested to Tim that he send him 13,000 doses of LSD though the mail (hence the federal offense).
The federal statute that Tim was sentenced under (the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986) is just a brain-dead, "mandatory minimum" formula: basically, if you're caught trying to sell X amount of drug Y, then your sentence is Z years. And if you have 2 prior convictions, then a whole larger set of sentences go into effect, which for Tim, with the quantity of LSD involved, was automatic life without parole. Although it's also worth noting that the weight of the carrier paper was included when they determined the weight of the LSD at Tim's sentencing. Had he shipped the exact same amount of the drug, but with a lighter carrier medium, then his sentence would have only been 10 years, rather than life. What's even more absurd about this statute, is that in order to get the life sentence for selling heroin, it would be necessary to sell 1 kilogram of that substance, which would yield between 100,000 and 200,000 doses. Likewise one would need to sell 5 kilograms of cocaine to receive a life sentence given two prior convictions, which would yield anywhere from 32,500 to 500,000 doses.
And to further put Tim's sentence in perspective, the average time served in federal prisons for murder/manslaughter is about 13 years, and the average time served for rape is less than 6 years.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was ostensibly intended for drug "kingpins", but it was so poorly drafted that the end result is that your tax dollars (during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression) are paying to keep low-level offenders like Tim in prison for life. Tim was certainly no drug lord: he was just a young, simple "Deadhead", with no money at all.
Regardless of your personal opinion, take a look at it from an economic standpoint. It costs
taxpayers (you and me) an estimated $18,000-$50,000 (depending on the state) per year to sustain each prisoner behind bars. Just do the math for a 60 year life sentence, the numbers are staggering.