Free Charles Garrett!

In 1970 Charles Edward Garrett, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison by an all-white Texas jury. His crime? He was a drug addict in possession of two grams of heroin. Nowadays, we realize that people like Mr. Garrett need treatment to regain control over their lives, not to have their lives taken away from them. But this was 1970, and this was the American South. Fortunately, by the time the verdict was read, Mr. Garrett had the foresight to flee, since under those circumstances a fair trail was extremely unlikely.

During his 28 years on the run, Mr. Garrett turned his life around. He freed himself of his drug addiction, stayed out of trouble with the law, started a family, and had a good job as a mechanic when he was arrested recently at the age of 56. Imagine how this story would have gone if the State of Texas had its way. They would have preferred that Mr. Garrett die in prison. Instead, Mr. Garrett embarrassed them by having the intelligence and willpower to rehabilitate himself.

Incredibly, the State of Texas has decided to enforce Mr. Garrett's life sentence. Decades after the gains of the civil rights movement, the State of Texas insists on upholding this obviously racist and unjust sentence. Clearly this is a case where self-serving prosecutors are more interested in scoring points in the courtroom than they are in justice. Mr. Garrett's only hope for justice is public pressure. Charles Garrett does not belong in prison with murderers and rapists. If we want to discourage drug use, we should do it in a way that is intelligent, constructive, and fair to everyone regardless of race.

On the web: Visit the Free Charles Garrett website at; and sign the electronic petition.