Jason Hernandez went from being a drug dealer behind bars to dedicating his life to prison reform—here's why he's fighting for mass clemency for non-violent crimes.
A majority of people sentenced for crack are Black or Latinx. Hernandez’s brother was also in prison for crack and was murdered there.
“There I am, life without parole, 320 years, and just hear that my brother was murdered by three other inmates,” Hernandez stated. “With the loss of my brother’s life, I was gonna get my life back.”
Hernandez began working to pursue clemency for himself and others.
“Just as mass incarceration has destroyed our communities and incarcerated our people, mass clemency can be used to reverse all this,” he explained.
The Fair Sentencing Act was passed in 2010. It reduced the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, but it didn’t help Hernandez because he was already serving a life sentence. His last hope was to write a letter to President Obama, who ultimately did grant him clemency.
When Jason left prison, he maintained a commitment to prison reform. He now works at a drug and alcohol recovery center as head of youth outreach.
“There’s thousands upon thousands of people who have been harmed by this war on drugs, by mass incarceration, by prosecutorial misconduct and overreaching,” he said. “What I want to do is push for a mass movement of clemency.”