‘Glad to be free’: Michigan man released from prison after serving 25 years over marijuana case
JACKSON, MI – Michael Thompson was greeted by his daughters and granddaughter, whom he never met, as he was released from prison after serving more than 20 years for a crime that is no longer illegal .
Thompson, 69, was released from Jackson’s Charles Egeler Reception and Orientation Center at 4 a.m. on Thursday, January 28, under a veil of darkness on an extremely cold winter morning.
He first hugged his eldest daughter Rashunda Littles, then his lawyer Kimberly Corral and finally his second daughter, Princess Thompson and granddaughter Armani Jacobs.
Soon after, a celebratory roar from a team of documentaries, members of the Redemption Foundation, a nonprofit that helps support individuals and families disproportionately affected by the war on cannabis, and d others in favor of Thompson’s release broke the silence of the intimate moment.
“I feel great,” Thompson said as he was overcome with emotion. “Twenty-five years is a long time.
Thompson was sent to jail to serve a sentence of 42 to 62 years after being convicted in 1996 of selling three pounds of marijuana to an undercover informant in December 1994.
The Flint native’s sentence was compounded by previous felony convictions, including another drug-related crime in 1983 and for smuggling into a prison in 1986 and the discovery of a gun during of the investigation.
He was not going to be eligible for parole until he was 87.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer granted clemency to Thompson and three others on December 22.
All prisoners whose sentences have been commuted were released from the jail at 8 a.m. Thursday, according to Chris Gautz, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Commutation reduces an individual’s sentence to a fixed term, but it does not cancel the underlying conviction.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel began reviewing the case after a pre-closed meeting with members of the Cannabis Caucus, an advocacy group made up of marijuana entrepreneurs, patients, growers and lobbyists.
This fall she sent a letter to Whitmer asking him to exercise his executive power and commute Thompson’s sentence.
As a former prosecutor, Whitmer said she recognizes how essential it is to take action for a smarter and fairer justice system.
Thompson said he plans to help others still incarcerated on marijuana-related charges.
“I just hope that someone who can hear about prison reform can hear me and let them know that a lot of things need to be done because – these guys are human beings and the way they treat them doesn’t is not good, and hope that the prison reform will help them, ”he added.
Littles, 48, said while his father was in prison he mentored other inmates and planned to continue this work as he acclimatized to his new life.
“I am happy to be free, but there is so much work to be done with prison reform,” said Thompson.
Kimberly Corral, Thompson’s lawyer, said that Thompson’s release was such a relief, but added that it shouldn’t have taken decades to get him out.
“As we celebrate a milestone in justice for Michael, it shouldn’t take what it took to get him out,” Corral said. “His sentence is blatant in every way and when you look at the volume of manpower required to secure this release, it reveals fundamental flaws in the ability of the criminal justice system to correct itself.”
Corral pointed out that it took heads of state such as Whitmer and Nessel and 20,000 letters from Michigan residents for Thompson’s sentence to be commuted.
While in jail, Thompson contracted COVID-19 months after lawyers filed for a pardon on his behalf, arguing his punishment outweighed his crime, especially after Michigan legalized the substance for which he was called. been convicted of trafficking.
Thompson recounted difficult times when he was incarcerated.
“For the past two months, I’ve washed my clothes in the toilet stool,” Thompson said, adding that he at least had clean clothes.
Ryan Basore, founder and CEO of Redemption Cannabis and the Redemption Foundation, said the foundation helps raise funds for people released from prison and affected by the war on cannabis.
“It’s really great to see Michael come out,” Basore said. “I can’t imagine being there for 25 years and not knowing whether you will make it or not.”
Basore said $ 10,000 was raised specifically for Thompson to help him with housing, food, employment assistance or whatever he might need on his new journey in life.
“The system is so stacked against people coming out – people need a lot of time for a little break,” Basore said.
Upcoming plans for Thompson include meeting family members, building relationships, continuing to stand up for others still behind bars, and indulge in one of his favorite meals: a fish dinner with cucumbers and tomatoes.
Littles had butterflies as she prepared to see her father, who went to jail when she was just 19 and her sister Princess Thompson was just three.
The sisters were moved a few moments before their father came out of the prison doors.
The princess’ daughter Armani, 9, first met her grandfather on Thursday. She stayed up until 2 a.m. waving a “Welcome Home” sign to greet him.
“I can’t believe this day has arrived,” Littles said. “I am grateful and I am blessed. Because the Lord saw fit, he saw that my father deserved a second chance.
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