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August 15, 2003 He wasn't hallucinating; sentence was 'enhanced' By Rick Collett Snitch Columnist Sometimes it seems as though I am repeating myself, so bear with me. On Oct. 1, 1986, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in its infamous glory, revamped the federal sentencing guidelines.
Under the pretense of getting tough on crime (as all politicians promise in their campaign-begging) and to aid the Drug War, parole was eliminated and mandatory minimum sentences were instituted. The mandatory-minimum, non-parole sentences (much hailed and bragged about by said politicians) have since then been reworded, revamped and re-just-about-everything-else that can happen to a stupid law. However, mandatory-minimum guidelines still remain the standard.
If there is any silver lining in this stupidity, it is that the person receiving a non-parole sentence knows his release day. That?s the case regardless of behavior (or achievements). Whether you?re an (expletive deleted) or a good-guy, your release day does not change. Unless, of course, you catch another case while in the joint, which has been known to happen on occasion, or you?re one of those guys who, like some kind of superhero, saves the warden?s life (which only happens in the movies).
It was in the early-1990s that the LSD laws were revamped. Prior to the change, a person convicted of possessing, selling or distributing LSD was sentenced by the weight of the drug seized, as is the way with illegal drugs. Consequently, one dose of LSD in a sugar cube would mean more prison time than a single dose on a piece of paper or in pill form. Hence, you could meet two LSD guys convicted on the same dosage, but one guy might have six years to serve and the other guy could have 20. PLUS ? and you?ll never get any politician or prison official to admit this in public ? 99 percent of all users and traffickers of LSD lived a non-violent lifestyle, and were known as Deadheads, a large group of people who followed the band Grateful Dead during their summer concert tours.
Deadheads comprise basically two kinds of people: hippies left over from the ?60s and their descendants. Deadhead stereotype: peace, love, non-violent, most often white and sometimes from wealthy and powerful families. Sarcastically, I put in writing what I sincerely believe was said behind closed-doors: ?If rich, white kids committing non-violent crimes are not the exception to the rule of mandatory-minimum, non-parole sentences, well, they should be.?
Changing a law is much more difficult and takes much longer than when the original law is enacted. The vast majority of federal drug prisoners are incarcerated because of cocaine, crack, methamphetamine and marijuana. Comparatively, there are just not many LSD prisoners.
Nevertheless, gossip was on the prison compound for many months concerning the LSD laws and the possibility of change. The Sentencing Commission (under no pressure from politicians who were under no pressure themselves ? yeah, right) put their heads together and ratified the LSD sentencing guidelines ?immediate release dates for pert-near all the LSD criminals! Because of the paperwork, the only people grumbling were overwhelmed case managers. It was almost as if there was a revolving door on the front of the joint.
The gossip elevated everyone, and the pipedream was, ?This is only the beginning. The Sentencing Commission is gonna change all the drug laws.?
The gossip was almost true. The Sentencing Commission was not through with the mandatory-minimum, non-parole guidelines. It enacted enhancements ? and I ain?t talkin? ?bout breasts on a young lady. I don?t want to seem cynical, but I do love the phrase, in its infamous wisdom. The Sentencing Commission mandated that for anyone found guilty of a criminal offense by a U.S. federal court, any and all previous criminal behavior will be used for enhancement of the defendant?s prison term during sentencing. And that is exactly what happened to ?Joe.?
He was the stereotypical LSD user/trafficker ? white, mild-mannered and, true to the Deadhead lifestyle, non-violent. I knew him only a short time, but he reminded me of someone living life with the acceptance of knowing his fate was out of his control.
Contradictory as it may seem, he had hope but no faith ? in lawyers. Joe was in his early 20s when he received a mandatory-minimum, non-parole sentence. Caught red-handed and dead-to-rights with LSD, he was convicted of possession and intent to distribute 15 doses. It was Joe?s misfortune to have been a previous offender. At music concerts earlier in his youth, he was caught with marijuana and LSD on two separate occasions. For a measly 15 doses of LSD, plus enhancements because of two previous drug arrests (note: I did not use the word ?conviction?), Joe received a 20-year sentence! He will serve 18 1/2 years before being released.
Those scientist guys always said LSD could ruin your life, but I thought they meant through flashbacks. Man! 18 1/2 years for 15 hits ? he?s living a flashback! It ain?t a complete bad-luck story, because it is a mandatory-minimum, non-parole sentence, so there?s no uncertainty. Joe knows the exact day he will walk.
That's fuckin' brutal, for something that was held in very high esteem by the psychiatric community, and by anyone who took it, back in the fifties and early sixties. The government just fears it because of it's ability to cause people to assess the world they live in as bullshit, and desire to make it better, i.e., eliminate the authority structure.