Prisoner May Have Just Rejected Obama's Clemency Offer for a Heartbreaking Reason

December 16th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

President Barack Obama made clemency a big part of his administration and more than 1,000 prisoners have been granted reduced sentences or immediate release from prison - a figure larger than the last 11 presidents combined.

Out of the thousands of people who applied for clemency with the Obama administration, one prisoner received it and, ultimately, he turned the offer down. His rejection of the clemency likely reveals the difficult reality of addiction for some Americans.

Obama granted Arnold Ray Jones clemency in August, but he likely refused it because of the mandatory residential drug treatment program.

private prison

The 50-year-old has been incarcerated in Texas since 2002 for dealing cocaine and records obtained by USA Today showed that the year before he was arrested he used crack cocaine every week. Jones has also unsuccessfully attended drug rehabilitation programs multiple times in the past.

If he accepted the clemency stipulations which included mandatory completion of the Residential Drug Abuse Program, which has been described by the Federal Bureau of Prisons as its "most intensive treatment program," he would be out in 2018. Jones has six years left on his sentence and would likely receive time off his sentence for good behavior, which would give him an April 2019 release date - eight months longer than the clemency deal.

Drug addicts are constantly recovering, and they're never cured from addiction.


While Jones never specified that the program was the reasoning behind his denial of the clemency offer, Jones's reported history of drug use and repeated treatment is common among users. Between 40 to 60 percent of recovering drug addicts will relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The rate is even higher for specific types of drugs. Heroin addicts, who have a type of addiction the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called an "epidemic," have a relapse rate of 80 percent.

A relapse does not mean that treatment has failed.


"Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors, and relapse does not mean treatment has failed," wrote the NIDA. "For a person recovering from addiction, lapsing back to drug use indicates that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted or that another treatment should be tried."

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report on Nov. 17 which focused on addiction and one of the key findings was that "addiction to alcohol or drugs is a chronic brain disease that has potential for recurrence and recovery."

In an interview with The Huffington Post in November Murthy stated, “Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and it’s one that we have to treat the way we would any other chronic illness: with skill, with compassion and with urgency.”

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