Crack + Black = Life

Donald Evans, Catholic elementary school graduation

Donald Evans, Catholic elementary school graduation

Update: Donald’s life sentence was reduced by a judge to 30 years. He will be released April 26, 2016. 

“Intelligent. Concerned. Loving. Family-oriented.”

That’s how Donald’s mom describes her son.

Is she right? The evidence shows she is.

Spend a few moments today meeting a fine man, Donald B.W. Evans, an intelligent 50-year-old with much to offer.

In 1990, the nation’s justice system froze this good man’s life into a racist stereotype: worthless young black male. Today, Donald is serving life without parole because he — and hundreds of others who look like him — sold crack cocaine.

Donald is ranked No, 5 on The Clemency Report’s list of the 10 Most Outrageous Crack Cocaine Sentences.

His official crime — a non-violent, first-time offense — was merely the mechanism to punish a (black) person based on fear and bias, rather than science or offense severity.

Donald, in first grade, pushes sister in stroller

Donald, in first grade, pushes sister in stroller

Federal crack law — then and now — exists to provide respectability to the enforcement of an old racist myth: the idea that a complex (black) man’s entire life can be judged based on a single, purportedly evil act or characteristic.

Federal law stereotypes Donald B.W. Evans. Reality reveals a different man.

A family tale

Donald Evans is the oldest of four children. His father was African American, his mother Panamanian.

Donald, mom and brother at Easter service

Donald, mom and brother at Easter service

Today, his brother is a truck driver. One sister is an accountant. Another is a retired police officer.

His mom, now 72, is retired nurse who worked for the Navy and Department of Defense. His father and stepfather are both dead.

“Donald became the man of the house at age nine,” says his mother, Benilda Lopez, a naturalized U.S. citizen since 1961. “When I left his father, I moved myself and four kids into a two-bedroom apartment in Queens.”

The father didn’t send the family money. But, determined to make a better life for her family, Benilda went on welfare, sewed for extra money and worked, worked, worked.

“My rock”

Donald Evans Christmas cropped

Donald (left) enjoys a childhood Christmas

“Donald was the oldest, so I always depended on him to hold down the fort, to take care of the other children. After work, I would feed the children, then go to evening classes on the G.I. bill, ” his mother said.

“Donald was my rock. His youngest sister was four months old, but Donald never wavered. He stayed home, did his homework, took care of the children. He did what he had to do. He was the most responsible 10-year-old you can imagine.”

Donald Evans and extended family

Donald and extended family, heading to California

One time a family member came to the apartment. Donald, home alone with the children, stood on a chair and looked through the peephole to see who was knocking.  He would not unlock the door, not even for family. He was under strict orders from his mother to protect the family.

Bookish boy

Donald was a natural homebody, a bookish boy who read endlessly — newspapers, science, chemistry.

In 1977, Benilda drove an Oldsmobile Delta 88 to California seeking a better life. The children and their stepfather took the train across country to join her.

With her new nursing degree, Benilda got a job caring for veterans in Long Beach, Calif.

Donald Evans with high school classmates

In high school, Donald (fifth from left in back row) was a member of Omega Psi Phi, a prestigious black fraternity

Donald continued as before — the “good boy,” patient, studious, thoughtful. He excelled academically in high school and at Long Beach Community College.

Accepted at U.C. Berkeley

Donald Evans, high school honors graduate

Donald Evans, honors graduate, Class of 1981, Juniipero Serra High School in Gardena, Calif.

One day, when his mother came home, Donald told her he had a letter for her to read.

“What’s wrong?” his mother asked.

“Read this,” Donald said.

His mother read the letter: Her son had been accepted to prestigious U.C.-Berkeley on scholarship.

“I could not speak. I was so happy,” says his mother.

Donald attended U.C. Berkeley for three years, away from home for the first time. His mother thinks he struggled to adjust.

“I don’t know what happened. He may have been too far from his family. He’d never been away before except twice for summer camp,” Benilda said.

Mom: “Don’t you dare”

Young Donald, on his own, was impressed by the fancy cars and money that flashy drug dealers had. The dealers he saw lived far beyond the modest means of his upbringing.

berkeley golden bears
Donald told his mother he was taking a year off from Berkeley.

Don’t you dare,” his mother said.

Donald wouldn’t listen.

“I am,” he said.

Donald’s offense

Donald was arrested for transporting powder and crack cocaine between California and Oklahoma several times a week for four months in 1987. He possessed two loaded guns when he was arrested. His brother was charged, too, and served a shorter sentence.

A Tulsa jury found Donald guilty in March 1990. At age 25, he was sentenced to life without parole.

Donald will reach his 25th anniversary behind bars on March 7th. Today, he is 50, has spent half his life locked up and lives at medium security federal prison in Butner, N.C.

Based on his life expectancy, Donald is likely to live another 30 years, spending a total of 55 years behind bars  for a non-violent, first offense committed in his early twenties (at a cost of $2 million to taxpayers).

Clemency for Donald?

Donald Evans family cropped

Donald Evans today, in a prison visiting room, with his mother, brother and sister

Evans seems an obvious candidate for release under President Obama’s program to commute the sentences of prisoners serving long, old sentences that would be shorter under current law.

Under today’s drug law — the one that reduced the notoriously racist crack-to-powder cocaine ratio from 100:1 to a still racially biased 18:1 — Donald could get a much shorter sentence: 324 to 405 months. In that range, Donald would be released  after two to eight more years — better than in a coffin but still a sadistically long sentence.

Donald’s view, at age 50

Donald judges her offense harshly.

“In retrospect, I was an agent for Satan. Only a person under the influence of some demonic entity would sell poison to an unsuspecting people.”

“My mother worked her butt off and went through so much to provide for us (four children).I have no excuse for being here. “

“I went to high school, an all boys Catholic school, and from there I went to college. I ended up leaving school and getting into the illegal drug business. I have no excuse or justification.”

“I never experienced the things that people believe are normal in that business. I never shot anyone. I never beat anyone up, nor did I commit any crime of violence. So my drug dealing days seem pretty much sanitized.”

“I have spent all of my time in prison actually educating myself and working on changing my thinking, so I would not repeat the past if I were to be released.”

“I have heard throughout my incarceration that I don’t fit in here. I’ve always felt like an outsider here.”

“I did wrong, but I don’t feel it’s fair that I can make one mistake and have my life snatched from me.”

Donald Evans associates degree

In prison, Donald received an associate’s degree

Isn’t Donald Berkeley Wilson Evans more than just a crack offender?

Crack + Black = Life.

Justice delayed is, truly, justice denied.


 Click here for the full list of…

The 10 Most Outrageous Crack Cocaine Sentences!

Sharanda Jones

No. 2 Sharanda Jones, life without parole

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