April Anderson and Cole Jackson's father was arrested almost 20 years ago for the intent to distribute half a pound of methamphetamine. The judge sentenced him to three consecutive life sentences, which his family told HuffPost Live's Ricky Camilleri is a yet another example of overreaching drug sentences better suited for more serious criminals.
When Cole was young, he was diagnosed with Wizkott-Aldrich syndrome, a rare immune-deficiency disease that sent his medical bills through the roof. After being told that he needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant, a $250,000 procedure, the family held numerous benefits and eventually raised $50,000, which the American Cancer Society matched. With no insurance (the family's provider dropped them after they found out Cole was sick) and minimal income, Cole's father, Dicky Joe Jackson, a truck driver, agreed to start transporting meth.
Dicky's mission to use money made through the drug trade to support his family led Salon to label him "the real Walter White."
“I was desperate,” Jackson told Salon. “I had to get the money. Before I had kids, I’d never known there was a love like that. Once you have kids the whole game changes. There ain’t nothing you wouldn’t do for them especially if they’re sick."
His daughter April told HuffPost Live that she imagines her father was motivated by the responsibility of having to save his son.
"That’s when Dad started doing the only thing he knew to do in order to try to raise the money because the doctors had told my parents that Cole was going to die, that he wouldn’t live to see the age of five," April said. "So I think he kind of felt backed into a corner.”
Dicky transported meth between Texas and California, which earned him five times more than he made to transport cattle and produce. In 1995, a year after he started the monthly drives, Dicky was caught selling half a pound of meth to an undercover officer. He rejected the court's offer to lower his sentence because he didn't want to testify against the other defendants. "If I make a mistake, I'm going to pay for it myself," he explained to Salon.
The judge's verdict: three consecutive lifetime sentences. His children said that when they initially heard the decision, they were completely floored.
"We were devastated, obviously. We were extremely upset, in complete disbelief. I don't think I fully comprehended it initially," April told HuffPost Live. "It’s taken a while to soak in, but it’s been almost two decades now, so we’ve come to terms with it."
This case brings to light the draconian mandatory minimums on drug sentences that Congress set in the 1980s, which has led to more than 3,200 men and women currently serving life sentences without parole for non-violent offenses, according to Salon.
But the family hasn't given up hope that their father might one day come home.
"As long as we continue to make it an issue and eventually make Congress listen, then maybe something will change," Cole said. "Maybe one day we’ll all be able to sit down and have dinner together again."
Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about the human toll of mandatory minimums below: