April (Jackson) Andrews is an intelligent, eloquent, and thoughtful woman. She loves her father, and has been deeply affected by the events that ultimately resulted in him being taken from them. She told us at one point she even considered going to law school, going so far as to take the LSAT, but with four children, that simply wasn’t possible. She told us that the last couple of years had been the worst for the family and that they were coming to a point of having no hope. The family is contacted about doing multiple stories, but nothing seems to come of it. Meanwhile, her brother Cole was recently hospitalized and contemplating another bone marrow transplant.
April questions how much time, money, and resources are being used for so little. Justice, she says, is backward on how we are dealing with non-violent drug offenses, when there is so much more that could be done.
Despite that, she continues to remain hopeful that our country is heading toward an enlightenment and a revolution with respect to the justice system and the healthcare system – institutions that are intimately connected.
Her words supporting clemency for her father, and the trauma caused to her family by Cole’s illness, her father’s subsequent arrest, and Joe’s two decades of incarceration for trying to save his son’s life, are far more powerful than anything we could say:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing in regards to my father, Dicky Joe Jackson. I am praying that someone takes the time to read my letter and hear my request as I feel it embraces the essence of the type of inmate that should be considered for [this] request. He is inmate number 24017-077 and is currently in Forest City, AR. He has been incarcerated for over 19 years now. I was 14 years old when it all happened.
I’m not writing to lay out a bunch of excuses about why my father is where he is. I will tell you the facts and let you judge for yourself as to whether or not he deserves another chance. My youngest brother was born with a rare genetic disease called Wiskott-Aldridge Syndrome. I was 9 when Cole was born, my middle brother Jon was 6. Initially, we had no idea that there was anything wrong with Cole. He appeared to be a bouncing baby boy. However, my family soon learned that Cole was very sick. Our independent health insurance policy cancelled after learning of my brother’s illness. Doctors told my parents that Cole would not live. They said that he was in immediate need of a bone marrow transplant in which a donor would be difficult to find. Furthermore, doctors said Cole would likely only live to the age of 5 even with the transplant. The average person’s platelet count ranges somewhere between 250,000 to 400,000. Cole’s platelet count was at a critical 6,000. He was covered in bruises and bumps. A simple touch left Cole with severe bruising. My mother endured hateful words from ignorant onlookers every time we took Cole out in public. Odds were against us.
“I will tell you the facts and let you judge for yourself as to whether or not he deserves another chance. My youngest brother was born with a rare genetic disease called Wiskott-Aldridge Syndrome.”
My father was a truck driver. He had always worked hard his whole life. Quitting high school to help his family earn a living he started driving a truck at only 15. He always wanted the best for his family. Unfortunately, driving a truck meant little pay and long hours away from his family. It’s funny how as adults we worry about these things and believe whole heartedly that they matter to our children. Maybe one day they do but, as a child I didn’t realize that I should have been embarrassed by the fact that we lived in a trailer house and drove less than wonderful vehicles. It seemed to me life was grand. I remember going on the truck with my dad and loving it more than anything else. I absolutely idolized my father as most young girls do. I thought he could do just about anything. When dad was gone on the truck, I longed for him to be home. He made a point to spend his time doing family stuff when he wasn’t gone on the truck, hauling loads across America.
While we were all being tested for a match to Cole’s bone marrow, a miracle happened. I was a perfect match for my baby brother. If I had not been a match for Cole, then he would have been put on the national bone marrow registry as we waited for a match. Chances of finding a match before you die on this list are slim. When our insurance cancelled and the doctors told my parents about the grave danger Cole faced, my entire family pulled together in an attempt to raise money for Cole’s surgery. Doctors told my parents that we needed to come up with $250,000 in order to have the bone marrow transplant. We had fund raisers galore. Everything from cake walks to ‘Bowl for Cole’ fundraisers started happening. My family wrote to hundreds of organizations and celebrities asking for any help that could be given. The generosity was overwhelming and a huge blessing. Items were sent from across the country for auctions for Cole. After months of fundraising we had successfully raised $50,000! We were still a long way off.
“…a miracle happened. I was a perfect match for my baby brother … Chances of finding a match before you die on this list are slim. When our insurance cancelled and the doctors told my parents about the grave danger Cole faced … we needed to come up with $250,000 in order to have the bone marrow transplant. We had fund raisers galore.”
Not knowing where else to turn, my dad made the decision to haul drugs in order to help raise the money for Cole’s medical expenses. Dad felt helpless if he couldn’t provide the means for the necessary medical surgery to save Cole’s life. He felt as a Dad it was his job to provide for his family.
“Not knowing where else to turn, my dad made the decision to haul drugs in order to help raise the money for Cole’s medical expenses.”
Cole had the transplant when I was eleven. Every other child in the transplant unit died while we were there. Although Cole faces daily health challenges, he survived the surgery and we are looking forward to celebrating his 24th birthday in July. Cole’s platelet count is still incredibly low compared to a healthy individual and he is required to take penicillin twice daily as he has no immune system. His spleen was removed shortly after the transplant. He is at a very high risk for secondary cancer and he has already received the maximum amount of chemotherapy a person can be given in a lifetime. However, he is alive and with us and for that we are blessed.
Unfortunately, the expenses didn’t end after the transplant. As the transplant didn’t completely take, doctors wanted to perform a second surgery. My parents refused as the risk were so high. Cole’s condition meant that he had go in regularly to bone marrow specialist and have hemoglobin transfusions. These expenses were somewhere around three thousand dollars a month. A regular truck driving salary couldn’t pay for the exorbitant expenses incurred by all of the medical procedures.
When I was fourteen DEA and AFT agents raided our house. I was trying to get ready for school and heard someone on a bullhorn. I remember mom walking out the front door in her pajamas and seeing what seemed to be thousands of red laser dots all over her from all of the guns pointed at her. I was terrified they might shoot her right in front of my eyes. My dad wasn’t home but, the agents looked through every nick and cranny of the house just to be sure. It was a disaster. We were raided on two other occasions as well. Dad wasn’t home on either of those occasions either.
“When I was fourteen DEA and AFT agents raided our house … I remember mom walking out the front door in her pajamas and seeing what seemed to be thousands of red laser dots all over her from all of the guns pointed at her. I was terrified they might shoot her right in front of my eyes.”
Living in a small rural town, my family became the talk of the town quite quickly. I was in my freshman year of high school and kids have a way of being cruel. Rumors ran wild about dead bodies buried in our back yard and underground drug labs. Dad was sentenced to 3 life sentences for a nonviolent drug offense helping to fuel the rumors. For the last 19 years, my relationship with my Dad has been limited to visiting rooms within federal prisons. I’ve graduated high school and earned a college degree. Dad missed those milestones. He also missed walking me down the aisle at my wedding. He missed the birth of my four children and the joy of being a hands-on grandparent.
After being in Florida for over 5 years, he was recently transferred to Forrest City, AR. Those last 5 years when he was in Florida were especially rough as we were only able to visit once a year or so due to the cost. I’m hoping since he’s a little closer we can visit more. We always maintain contact through email, letters and phone calls. I worry about him daily. There are always periods of time when the prison is in turmoil and he’s unable to call. That’s when I worry the most. He’s almost 56 years old now and he has some health concerns. In the last six months alone he’s had [staph] infection, been told he is diabetic and had two major eye surgeries to repair a detached retina. He has severely high blood pressure and currently takes 7 pills a day. He is getting older and prison has a way of aging a person.
“I worry about him daily. There are always periods of time when the prison is in turmoil and he’s unable to call. That’s when I worry the most. He’s almost 56 years old now and he has some health concerns.”
Since being incarcerated he has completed every course that has been available to him from business management to drug rehabilitation classes. He has always worked as he has never wanted to be a financial burden on his family and he’s volunteered to help the other inmates on suicide watch. He has stayed out of trouble and done everything that can be expected to rehabilitate himself. I believe you’d be hard pressed to find a more promising candidate for a clemency.
I pray in my heart that you consider him for a clemency as I know in my heart he has learned his lesson and deeply regret his wrong doings. I also know that there is a concern regarding recidivism and I can assure you that my Dad has a strong support network. I truly believe that a key component to successful rehabilitation is a strong support system. We have stood by him for over 19 years now and worked to maintain a relationship even when the odds weren’t in our favor. We plan to do everything we can to help make his transition back into the world as easy as possible. As a small business owner myself, I plan to employee my father upon his release. This should alleviate any concerns he may have of finding work. I know he deserves another chance and an opportunity to spend his last years trying to make up for all the ones that have been lost. I beg of you to consider my family and my father when selecting individuals for clemency and I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read my letter.
“I know he deserves another chance and an opportunity to spend his last years trying to make up for all the ones that have been lost.”