How To Help Matthew Charles Get His Sentence Commuted & Remain Free
Due to a technical error, a Tennessee man is now back in prison after being released two years ago — and after having already spent 21 years behind bars. If you're wondering how to help Matthew Charles get his sentence commuted and attain his freedom once again, there are several ways you can contribute your time and resources.
According to The Root, Charles was originally sentenced to 35 years to life in prison in 1996 after being convicted of distributing crack cocaine and of possession of a firearm. In 2016, Charles was released from prison after he received a sentence reduction based on new guidelines developed by the Obama administration.
However, following his release, federal prosecutors appealed Charles' case, saying that, because he was considered a "career offender," the sentencing reduction should not have applied in his case. According to Nashville Public Radio, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the prosecution, with Judge Aleta Trauger saying on March 28, 2018 that her "hands were tied" by the law. Trauger ordered that Charles must report back to prison by May 14. In announcing her ruling, Trauger complimented Charles for his "exemplary rehabilitation" and noted that his case was "sad."
Indeed, Charles has been a model of rehabilitation, both during his time in prison and afterward. Nashville Public Radio noted that, during his 21 years in prison, he took college classes and became a law clerk. Moreover, he never had one disciplinary infraction throughout his entire incarceration. After his release, he seemed to adjust to life outside of prison with ease, holding a steady job, doing regular volunteer work, and entering into a serious relationship with his girlfriend, Naomi Tharpe.
Now that he is back in prison, many are demanding Charles' release, citing the significant time he has already served along with his model rehabilitation. Much of the focus has centered on convincing President Trump to commute his sentence so he can once again be released. If you want to help Charles regain his freedom, there are several ways you can advocate on his behalf.
Sign Change.org's Petition
You can easily sign the Change.org petition that has been organized on Charles' behalf. The petition asserts that "President Trump should use his clemency power to commute the rest of Charles’ sentence so he can return to his family and community." Moreover, it notes that "President Trump has spoken of his support for giving formerly incarcerated people second chances. If there was ever a case that deserves his support, this is it."
The petition already has around 30,000 signatures, making it close to hitting its goal of 35,000. You can add your name to the petition by heading to Change.org's website.
Reach Out To The White House
You can also consider reaching out to the White House directly, sharing Charles' case and asking that President Trump commute his sentence so that Charles can be freed from prison. Trump has recently issued several presidential pardons, so many are convinced that that he could commute Charles' sentence if the case gets enough attention. The following are contact details for the White House and President Trump:
Contact Your Legislators (And Other Public Figures)
Some legislators, including Republicans, have already publicly called on President Trump to commute Charles' sentence. Encourage your legislators to start (or continue) strongly encouraging Trump to use his presidential commutation power to achieve Charles' release. You can easily find the contact information for your Senators and Representatives using the links provided on this USA.gov webpage. Moreover, if you live in Tennessee (the state in which Charles was sentenced), you can also reach out to your state legislators to push them to advocate on Charles' behalf.
In addition to contacting elected officials, consider reaching out to public figures to get them to bring Charles' case to the president's attention. As Kim Kardashian's meeting with President Trump about prison reform illustrated, the president seems to be willing to listen to celebrities and other prominent public figures. Thus, making celebrities aware of Charles' story via social media could be useful as well.
A GoFundMe campaign was recently created to assist Charles. As the page's organizer wrote, the funds will be used "to hire a new legal team and ... to help Matthew with commissary and savings for when he finally does get released. All of the funds raised with go directly to him and his legal team." You can donate to Charles' GoFundMe campaign here.
Push For Criminal Justice Reform
You can also consider advocating for criminal justice reform, particularly sentencing reform, both to draw attention to Charles' case and to the cases of others who are facing similar circumstances.
Consider financially supporting organizations that are dedicated to criminal justice reform, like Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and The Sentencing Project. You can also head to these organizations' websites to check out additional ways that you can help them advance their missions. For example, FAMM is sponsoring a "Families for Justice Reform" rally in Washington, D.C. on July 10, which you can sign up for on its website.
Moreover, you can use social media to promote these (and other) criminal justice reform organizations — and to bring attention to Charles' case.
Overall, these constitute a few ways you can help advocate on Charles' behalf. Getting more people involved with his case could certainly make a difference when it comes to helping him regain his freedom.