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Carlos Hendon

15 Years -- Crack Cocaine

Carlos Hendon was 20 years old when he agreed to go out one night with two of his friends. One friend had an "errand to run," -- not so unusual, but it turned out to be a police buy and bust. So much for a night out with friends.

They weren't taken into to custody, and Carlos went on with his life for a year, until an unrelated arrest brought him into the sights of a prosecutor who chose to revive the year-old indictment.

Carlos was charged with selling less than one gram of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school or park.

At trial it didn't matter that the undercover officer wasn't there. His police 'partners' testified instead, even though they weren't present during the buy and bust. Carlos remembers that the officers couldn't identify him when his defense attorney asked and said instead, "Our partner said it was him, so we're sure it was him."

The other two defendants weren't in the courtroom, just Carlos -- even though it wasn't Carlos who sold a gram of crack to the police.

Carlos has been imprisoned since 1994. He was never able to marry his fiancée, the mother of his son who is perched on the edge of manhood now. Carlos sits on the edge of release, the debt for crimes, and pound of flesh complete.

California's taxpayers have paid about $400,000 dollars to incarcerate Carlos throughout his twenties and he's midway through his thirties today. During his years in prison he completed seven biblical studies through the American Bible Academy, earned a GED and his TABE scores and grades are always high. Today he works to earn a Juris Doctorate Degree in Law, and has two civil rights cases under his belt.

Carlos can't afford to ask who he would have become if he'd told the guys he didn't want to go out that night. California's taxpayers, and every state and federal taxpayer should ask the question though -- they can't afford not to.

Posted 1/13/09

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