Sharanda Jones expected to die in prison. She had been caught as the middle woman in a cocaine operation in Texas. And although she was a first-time, nonviolent offender, she had been sentenced to life in prison. No possibility of parole. “It was like a death sentence,” she said. A Southern Methodist University law student who came across her case while researching a paper thought the sentence seemed Draconian. So did President Barack Obama.

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