Robe & Gavel To Suit & Satchel: A Stand Against Injustice.
“What they did was wrong. They deserve some time in prison, but not life…”
It appears at least one judge gets it. After sentencing a 24 year old kid to a mandatory life sentence back in 2013, Judge Kevin H. Sharp acknowledges the system is unfair and needs fixing.
Chris Young was a misguided kid from Clarksville, Tennessee, who, like many of us at his age from low-income, depraved neighborhoods, ended up meandering down that deceptive golden road to better living. Dealing in petty amounts of crack, he was caught twice and convicted before landing in the worst possible predicament a young black male could get himself in.
In 2010 he was amongst 32 individuals rounded up and charged with the big “C”. Conspiracy to sell drugs–especially crack–is one viciously tangled web that has been spawned on countless small time dealers, making it easy to trump up their charges and maximize their punishments with very little burden of proof.
Chris Young’s conviction in the big “C” totaled his third, which qualified him as a career offender. The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines required a mandatory life sentence be imposed.
And so, after being arrested at 21 and convicted at 24, Chris joins the rest of us who–between the common ages of 21 to 27–are mercilessly sent to languish, then rot, and ultimately die behind bars. But what makes his situation a bit more hopeful than the rest of us is his sentencing judge, Kevin H. Sharp, is remorseful. “If there was any way that I could not have given him life in prison, I would not have,” he was quoted saying in the Tennessean newspaper.
Judge Sharp is my hero of the moment. Not just because he has a moral conscious. Or because he gets that the system is broken.  But because he has moved to do something about it.
He is no longer a Chief U.S. District judge. He gave up his life time appointment on the bench and now dedicates his life to the fight for civil rights. With this liberty the former judge aims to help against the injustices placed upon disadvantage blacks, women, and other minorities.
Although private practice is a great vessel to achieve that, I personally think it would have served us better to have Mr. Sharp keep on his robe and execute his fight for fairness through the way he rules over all future cases.
How great it would be to have judges like him filtering out the excessiveness from trial proceedings. A District judge’s job also requires him to review appeals that have had no success in the higher courts, such as the Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court. The last outcry for help in the appellate process is an appeal  back to your District judge–that is, the judge who tried your case and sentenced you. Which is where U.S. District Court judge Sharp would likely help out more than Private Attorney Sharp.
But prayerfully, Mr. Sharp’s plan will still help many in desperate need of mercy. He’s gone on record saying he believes Chris Young only deserves a ten year sentence.
The Tennessean also quoted him saying, “The drug and gun cases, you say it like that and it sounds like they’re all dangerous…Most of them are not. They’re just kids who lack any opportunity and any supervision, lack education and have ended up doing what appears to be at the time the path of least resistance to making a living.”
This man gets it! Why is it so hard for others to? In our teens and twenties many of us make poor choices inspired by environmental conditions or just plain old immaturity. A kid needs time to grow and learn from his or her  mistakes.
We can’t continue being condemned to prison forever behind choices we make in sheer ignorance. And we can’t keep getting over-punished for over-characterization of our crimes, or exaggerations, or because of a defected U.S. Sentencing guideline system that requires mandatory sentences.
God help us…But until then, we need more Kevin H. Sharp’s to show themselves.
MICHAEL HARPER

Mike Harper is a screenwriter and novelist best known for his 2008 debut novel, STREET RAISED: The Beginning. Since releasing its mesmeric 2010 follow-up, SUGAR: The Life of a Kingpin’s Wife, he has worked perpetually to complete 6 more collective volumes in addition to an explosive new love & war trilogy titled, Perfume & Gunpowder. There’s two scintillating biographies to go along with the list and an erotic self-titled love story that’s full of hard to swallow moments and breathless sighs from start to finish.


Harper’s latest work includes collaborative screenwriting with fellow writer, Plex, on the BadlandEnt.com webseries, RISE & GRIND.


With over ten years of literary experience, he works as content editor for Badland Publishing, Book Gang Media, and Plex Presents. Occasionally known to flirt with journalism, Harper’s writing charm has appeared in magazines such as the long-standing Don Diva, the fleeting Urban Celebrity, and hip-hop’s newest source of hot news, the Urban Exposure magazine.


He grew up on the not so picturesque side of Miami. Taking that experience, he has unapologetically fashioned it into an art of illustrating vivid stories; albeit books, screenplays, or editorials.


Over 20 novels doctored or written by Harper are currently available on Amazon, BadlandPub.com and BookGangMedia.com. With 15 more self-authored novels already complete and digitally housed, the next few years of publication promises to be even more busy for the writer who swears he has not slept more than 4 hours a night since the debut of STREET RAISED.


The sleepless novelist, screenwriter, editor and quasi-journalist is now adding CSB to his fold of literary platforms.