Obama commutes sentences of 22 drug offenders including Kentucky member of the 'Cornbread Mafia'

04/01/2015 12:01 PM

Francis Darrell Hayden of Loretto joined a small group of Americans Tuesday when President Barack Obama commuted his and 22 other individuals’ prison sentences.

Hayden had been sentenced to life behind bars in 2002 following a third arrest for marijuana offenses in Michigan. With two prior marijuana convictions in 1980 and 1990, Hayden received a life sentence in 2002 after being caught growing nearly 19,000 marijuana plants in Michigan.

With a stroke from Obama’s pen, Hayden’s days behind bars are now nearly over with his prison sentence now set to expire on July 28.

Amber Duke, the communications manager for the Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told Pure Politics that “sentencing lengths are out of control in America, partly because of the failed War on Drugs”

“Sentencing someone to die in prison because of a nonviolent offense is cruel and inhumane. Life without parole sentences for nonviolent crimes are grotesquely out of proportion to the conduct they seek to punish, destroy lives, and waste taxpayer dollars,” she said.

“His pardons are a small step toward the end of extreme sentencing, but Congress and state legislatures also need to take action to ensure our laws and sentencing guidelines are smart, fair, and humane.”

Hayden was a member of the Marion County, Ky., marijuana syndicate known as the ‘Cornbread Mafia,’ described in Jim Higdon’s 2013 book of the same name as the “largest homegrown marijuana syndicate in American history.”

Higdon told Pure Politics that Hayden was a member of the group and the growing techniques described in his arrest were quintessential Cornbread — growing the marijuana in rows of corn.

“We can now count President Barack Obama as someone who agrees life in prison without parole is no way to treat a marijuana grower,” Higdon said in a phone interview.

The 22 names added to the list Tuesday more than doubles the number of commuted sentences during Obama’s six years in office, according to the Huffington Post.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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