In a startling decision, a Clayton County judge has thrown out a 30-year sentence for a drug conviction, saying that it is wrong to imprison someone for a drug addiction.
Charlie Horace Scandrett Jr. was set free after he had served 18 years of a 30-year sentence on a drug conviction.
Judge Matthew O. Simmons said prison for someone who had hurt no one but themselves was a punishment that was “just not right.”
“I’m going to do today what probably should have been done a long time ago,” Georgia Superior Court Judge Simmons said, as Scandrett’s father and sister cried tears of joy. “Today he can go home to his family.”
Back in 1997, the state-court judge filed charges against Scandrett that invoked the maximum sentence under recidivist laws that were in effect at the time, according to Patrick Mulvaney, a lawyer for the Southern Center for Human Rights.
District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said that Scandrett’s 79-year-old father, Charlie Horace Scandrett Sr., was the reason this case was readdressed. It was his fight for the freedom of his son that forced a review of the case, and brought it to the attention of the Southern Center.
“I am proud of his daddy and grateful to his daddy for loving his son so much to see that this happened today,” Lawson said before the judge. “We’re here today to just do the right thing.”
All of Scandrett’s run-ins with the law had been non-violent in nature. His “recidivism” involved cases where he was his own victim, or there was no victim at all. For this, he was locked up for the better part of his life, all for possessing less than a gram of cocaine.
“He was an addict,” Lawson, the prosecutor said. “Today this court would have sentenced him to the drug-court program and he wouldn’t have ever gone to prison.”
Simmons added that, “it appears that Mr. Scandrett has gotten a much longer sentence than other people similarly situated, It is just not right.”
“This type of case makes me cry,” Lawson concluded. “I was so upset when they told me about the sentence. I said, ‘That is just upside down. That is wrong.”
(Article by M. David and Jackson Marciana)