James Kidd was a Gulf War veteran injured in the service of his country, one who never had a felony conviction in his life — before selling a single pill in Kentucky.
Kidd was arrested on drug trafficking charges for selling the pill and originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence was probated on the condition that he leave the state for five years. But when Kidd returned to visit his ailing mother in 2012, a judge revoked his probation and ordered him to serve 10 years.
The case is now generating nationwide attention, with Kidd’s case being called the epitome of what is going wrong with the so-called War on Drugs.
“We should not be imprisoning a wounded veteran for 10 years at an average year’s cost of $21,906 … because he was technically in violation of his conditions of probation,” Public Advocate Ed Monahan told the Courier-Journal in an email.
The 37-year-old Kidd ended up serving a little more than three years in prison before being paroled last month. Those advocating for Kidd said such a long prison term was not warranted.
“After all, Kidd had not picked up any new charges, in any station, during the two and one half years he was on probation,” said Kidd’s lawyer, assistant public advocate Brandon Jewell.
Kentucky lawmakers are now trying to do something about cases like these. While it may be too late to help James Kidd, legislators have proposed a bill that would reduce penalties for drug crimes and steer defendants into addiction treatment instead.
Lawmakers say it could save the state up to $400 million over the next 10 years, as offenders are moved into less costly and more effective treatments. Experts also say it could reduce the number of people getting sent back to prison after release.
“We have a fair number of return customers,” said Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown, a task force member who helped craft the bill. “A lot of the time, they don’t adapt very well when they’re released. They can’t find a job, they go back to the same home, they go back to the same neighborhood where they got in trouble the last time. We’re working very hard at addressing that now.”
The measure will do nothing to help James Kidd, however. A Kentucky Court of Appeals denied an appeal and affirmed the revocation of his parole.
[Image via WiseGeek]