Joe Jackson is serving life without parole for his involvement in a methamphetamine conspiracy. Jackson transported and sold methamphetamines to pay for his son, Cole’s, bone marrow transplants and medical care following Cole being diagnosed with Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome when he was just two years old. Jackson’s daughter, April, was a match for the bone marrow that saved Cole’s life, but the family lost their medical insurance and soon found themselves in debt for $200,000 in hospital bills, with Cole’s monthly medical expenses costing an additional $4,000 each month.
Drug War Stories wrote to Jackson, requesting responses to a questionnaire. Excerpts from his responses follow. We first asked Joe for a bit of background. Joe was born in September of 1958 and lived on a small family dairy farm.
My dad went to driving a truck when I was very young and bought his own and 73. He took me out of school when I finished the 10th grade and 75 and put me on the truck with him driving cross-country. I more or less grew up in a[n] 18 wheeler between Texas and California. By the time I was 28 I had my own truck. I had been married to my wife Yvonne for nine years by then and our oldest child, April, was six years old. I had always either drove for my dad or one of his friends until I got my own truck. I’ve worked all my life just like every other person in this country from can to can’t.
It was for transporting methamphetamines in his truck that resulted in his arrest and conviction.
Drug War Stories asked Joe about his criminal history. Joe was convicted of possession of less than a half gram of math in 1988 and possession of over a kilogram of marijuana with intent to distribute in 198. His third felony conviction was for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, which resulted in his sentence of life without parole.
We asked Joe about any clemency efforts. Joe wrote:
in the past 20+ years I have filed for clemency for five times only to be denied. I have a petition and now that has been there since 8-1-14 and meet all the six points of criteria but I fear I will be denied even though I’ve never had even one disciplinary report in over two decades, have always supported myself by working in here and have took every ed[ucation], drug, self-help type classes available to a lifer.
Regarding the effects of his incarceration on his family Joe wrote:
My oldest grandchild, Felicity, is the same age as her mom, my daughter April, was when this nightmare all began. My wife is struggled all these years and still waits for me. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it is for a person’s family. It would’ve been better for all of us if they’ve given me the death penalty and carried it out quickly. I doubt any other country in the world is as big [of a] hypocrite as ours is when they talk about human rights and kindness.
I’m sending a picture of my last visit a few weeks back. Everyone is there except my wife and the two smallest grandbabies. Visiting in this institution really sucks and there’s nothing for the little ones to do so they didn’t come … We have done so many of these with magazines and newspapers all over this country and one in Norway and even the BBC … I’m sure if you Google my name you can find all you need to go on your site and none of it is going to make one bit of difference because this country is fixing to vote in H. Clinton and it was her and her husband that took our right to file another 2255 away from us and built a prison on every corner of our country…
When asked about his daily routines, Joe responded:
Finally, we asked Joe about anything else he wanted us to know:
Joe’s children had to grow up with out him and his grandchildren have only ever known their grandfather in prison. Enough is enough. No one with a non-violent drug conviction should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In absolutely no stretch of the imagination should the death penalty be preferable to incarceration for a non-violent drug crime, yet Joe has already spent decades in prison and faces a slow death with no hope for freedom. In so many ways, Joe’s sentence is far worse than the harshest penalty given to the worst mass-murderers. It makes absolutely no sense and has no justification legally, economically, or morally. It’s time for Joe to go home.
Joe’s Clemency Efforts
Joe filed a Petition for Clemency of Sentence under President Obama’s Clemency Initiative in July, 2014, with a supplement in November of that year, through his pro bono attorney, Richard Burr. There are many unnerving details about Joe’s case that are contained in his Petition, including the following excerpt from his Sentencing Hearing.
But there are many more hopeful hopeful aspects, including Joe’s own words:
There are over 40 letters of support for clemency, from family, friends, and prospective employers in the Petition. Even the prosecuting attorney in Joe’s case, Michael R. Snipes, now a Texas Criminal District Court Judge, wrote a letter of support for a pardon or clemency, stating,
“I prosecuted hundreds, if not thousands, of cases during my thirteen year career with the United States Attorney’s Office. I saw no indication that Mr. Jackson was violent, that he was any sort of large scale narcotics trafficker, or that he committed his crimes for any reason other than to get money to care for his gravely ill child … I would support any decision to pardon him or give him clemency based on the facts of the case.” – Judge Michael R. Snipes
But most powerful and compelling of all are the letters in support of clemency from Joe’s family: