Sharanda Jones is currently serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole at Carswell Federal Prison in Texas. Life without the possibility of parole is the second-harshest sentence our justice system can mete out, short only of the death penalty, and that not by much. What, you might ask yourself, did Sharanda Jones do to merit this sentence?

She was convicted of a single, non-violent drug offense involving crack cocaine. This conviction stemmed from her first ever arrest, and she was not even caught with crack in her possession.

If the above two paragraphs do not shock you, then you haven’t spent enough time in the criminal justice system to know how often violent crimes – including intentional homicides – are not punished with life sentences, much less life without parole. It is actually difficult, in many state court systems in particular, to get sentenced to LWP, even for repeat violent offender.