Carol Denise Richardson, a Texas grandmother who was among the total of 1,715 inmates President Obama granted clemency during his two terms has found herself back behind bars after having ” wasted her second chance” at freedom with an arrest for theft, prosecutors said. The 49-year-old was ordered back to prison for 14 months after repeatedly violating conditions of her supervised release — which included an arrest for stealing laundry detergent, which prosecutors alleged she planned to sell to purchase drugs. While it is easy to blame Richardson for throwing away the opportunity of literally a lifetime, her reoffending and return to prison has highlighted the flaws within the current probationary system, a system that deals with addiction solely as a crime, and not as a medical condition.
Her original conviction itself is controversial, as with many convictions under the banner of “the war on drugs” Richardson was a nonviolent offender. She was convicted of conspiracy to traffic 87 grams of cocaine, of which the 87 grams was never delivered, but was present during 2 separate buys of cocaine totaling 26 grams for which Richardson claims she never profited from. For her conviction, she received a life sentence- a hefty price to pay for an offense some see as “victimless”.
According to Joshua Rhett Miller of the New York Post:
“This defendant was literally given a second chance to become a productive member of society and has wasted it,” Assistant US Attorney Ted Imperato said in a statement. “She has clearly shown a willful disregard for the law and must face the consequences for her crimes and actions.”
Richardson — who was convicted in June 2006 of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine and two counts of possession with intent to distribute – was sentenced to life in prison. She was released on July 28, 2016, as one of a total of 1,715 inmates, mostly those with nonviolent drug convictions, who were granted clemency by Obama during his two terms in the White House, according to the Chronicle.
Richardson had been ordered to remain under supervision for 10 years, but was arrested for theft in Pasadena on April 13. She didn’t report the arrest and also didn’t tell authorities she was fired from a job or had changed her address — all violations of the terms of her release, Imperato told Judge Keith P. Ellison.
Ellison, meanwhile, said he was disappointed that Richardson blew her chance at freedom. He also sentenced her to five years of supervised release in addition to her time in federal prison.
Richardson cried throughout Thursday’s hearing, according to attorney Mark Anthony Diaz, who was assigned to her case. He said the theft involved $60 worth of stolen laundry detergent she planned to sell to buy drugs.
Richardson’s addiction to crack cocaine led her back to prison, according to Diaz, who asked the judge to provide her mandatory drug rehabilitation. Ellison said the Bureau of Prisons does not provide such treatment to someone given a life sentence, but said he would make rehabilitation part of her post-release plan.
With her known history of addiction, the outright rejection to provide Richardson with treatment had set her up to fail upon her release.
Amy Povah, founder of CAN-DO, a nonprofit group that seeks clemency for nonviolent drug offenders, told the Washington Post that Richardson’s case was “extremely rare,” adding that she knew of only one other person who had been returned to prison after being granted clemency by Obama.
“We are very concerned to hear that Carol Richardson has been sent back to prison for various probation violations that appear to stem from her drug addiction that has gone untreated,” a statement from the group read. “The system has failed Carol, yet again. It will be easy for some to point a finger at Carol and justify their support of harsh mandatory sentences as a necessity to keep people locked up, when we feel Carol’s current situation is proof that we desperately need to overhaul our current drug policy that treats addiction as a criminal issue, rather than a medical issue.”
Do you think Richardson slipped through the cracks in this case? Would she have found herself in this position if rehabilitation programs were offered to her upon her initial release? What are the changes that need to be made in order to better assist those granted clemency and a second chance at life?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Article by Tasha Sharifa)