Ronald E. Burkes -- #70224-079

24 Years -- Crack Cocaine Conspiracy

Ronald Burkes, prisoner of the drug war, with his family
My name is Ronald E. Burkes, Jr. I am a first-time, nonviolent drug offender, who was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, convicted and sentenced to 23 years, 8 months in federal prison. I was actually sentenced to more time in February 1996 than I had lived. Is this rehabilitation?

In my particular case the government's only evidence was that of a charged co-defendant's testimony. In actuality, they took two guys from Alabama, one from Atlanta, GA, and one from my hometown of Houston TX. In return for their cooperation with the government, they all received downward departures and are home now. I got charged with what we in prison call 'ghost dope'; where a person receives time for an abstract substance given to the courts by paid for testimony. I have never been to Alabama or Atlanta, nor were there any recorded telephone calls or pictures of me delivering any controlled substance. I don't understand how a country can allow me, as well as many other men and women, to be ripped from society and placed in these concentration camp-like prisons.

I have a loving father, mother and sister, but no children, and as of now no future, being that we as adults live through our generations to come. I have lost my direct appeal, and have come to the conclusion that my only hope for a return home before 2016 is through a public outcry against this injustice.

I have always been told you can't expect to receive help unless you are first willing to help yourself. We have taken an important step in helping ourselves; now we only need more voices and support from our fellow citizens. I applaud the November Coalition and the other fighting family members outside these walls.

We have a long hard fight ahead of us, but once we are victorious we will reap the benefits for many generations to come.

(Ronald passed away in prison in 2000)