This is the story of Michael Short and the disparity in crack cocaine laws and why he did 15 years in prison for selling crack cocaine.
ON HIS 18TH DAY OF FREEDOM, Michael Short awakened before dawn. In prison, corrections officers had paced the halls at night, jingling keys and shining flashlights. Now Mike slept fitfully, even in a king-size bed.
It was a damp, gray Tuesday late in February. He slipped on a pinstriped shirt that hid his tattoos, slid his feet into shiny new loafers and rubbed coconut oil into his hair, cut razor-straight at the temples and flecked with gray. He was 36, with a basketball player's long-legged gait and the lined brow of a man well acquainted with consequences. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, he nervously knotted a silver-and-white tie that his girlfriend had bought him at Macy's.
On days like this, he wished the past were a room with a door you could close, a place you could walk away from, as he had walked away from prison after President Bush commuted his sentence. But the past wasn't like that, at least not for him. Over breakfast, he practiced the testimony he was scheduled to deliver that afternoon before a congressional subcommittee: My name is Michael Short. I am here because in 1992 I was sentenced for selling crack cocaine. Before that, I had never spent a day in prison. I came from a good family. I had no criminal history. I was not a violent offender. But I was sentenced to serve nearly 20 years. I was 21 years old.
As he navigated traffic from his girlfriend's house in Charles County and boarded the subway to Capitol Hill, he braced himself for the inevitable questions, the scrutiny of his crime, the dissection of his punishment. His commutation had taken half a dozen years to materialize and, by Mike's calculation, had shaved only six months off the time he would have served. He had spent more years in prison than many murderers.
He arrived at the basement room in the Rayburn House Office Building a half-hour early and looked around, taking in the raised dais, the plaque that said "Ways and Means." He might have spent this drizzly morning at the Greenbelt health club where he had recently landed a job as a personal trainer. Instead, he was here, wondering what was meant by the term "majority whip" and hoping that he wouldn't stutter.
The Washington Post