When Mark Geralds of Sikeston, Mo., got a federal prison sentence of nearly 30 years for a crack cocaine offense in 1996, says St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan, “this kind of draconian sentence was so common that his sentencing did not make the newspaper.” When many federal crack penalties were cut retroactively last year, St. Louis federal probation officers Lisa White and Clark Porter set up a crash course for new releasees like Geralds, who weren’t going to halfway houses but were to be released outright because they had done their time.
Many had been locked up for years. Few had much education. Many had little or no experience in the working world. Many had histories of drug abuse. White and Porter met twice a week with 17 releasees to discuss how to make it on the outside, how to find work, what resources were available. They had a graduation ceremony Thursday at the federal courthouse. White and Porter talked about how impressed they had been with the releasees’ determination.