PCS Bail Bonds (www.PCSBailBonds.com), Fort Worth, Texas’ most trusted bail bond service, is weighing in on clemency for Fort Worth prisoner Sharanda Jones and the question of enhanced jailed sentences for drug convictions.
Fort Worth’s Sharanda Jones was convicted in 1999 on a cocaine charge. It was her first offense, yet she was sentenced to a Dallas prison to serve the rest of her life behind bars. Jones served as the intermediary between a supplier and buyer and was caught up in a sweep by police. As the laws were outlined at the time of Jones’ sentencing, enhancements for first-time drug offenders, particularly crack cocaine, meant Jones was hit with the stiffest penalty. (Source: Horwitz, S., “How a first time crack offense led to a life sentence,” The Washington Post, July 15, 2015; http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2015/07/15/from-a-first-arrest-to-a-life-sentence/.)
“The intent of the law back then was to deter the use and distribution of crack cocaine, which was a major problem in communities throughout Texas and much of the country,” says Paul Schuder, owner of PCS Bail Bonds. “Judges were allowed to enhance sentences and had little discretion in interpreting the laws. This led to thousands of non-violent, first-time offenders doing extended prison terms.”
Today, the guidelines for sentencing similar drug offenses have changed, and Jones likely wouldn’t be serving life in prison if she had committed the same crime today. But after being incarcerated for 16 years, separated from her child, her only hope out of the system now is clemency.
There are over 95,000 inmates currently in prison for drug offenses, 35,000 of which have applied for clemency since spring 2014. Part of that criteria for clemency includes not having any connections to gangs, not having an extensive criminal record, and serving at least 10 years of the sentence. Jones meets all of those standards and has applied for clemency, but she is still waiting her turn for possible release; in fact, only 89 of the 35,000 applicants have been granted clemency thus far.
“The criminal justice system is what society stands behind to be fair,” Schuder concludes. “Government officials, some of them high ranking, are now starting to take steps to ensure that this remains the case and correct instances where any mistakes were made.\”
PCS Bail Bonds has been serving residents of the community for over 25 years and continues to do its part within the Fort Worth court system.