Two New Haven residents convicted on federal drug charges received shortened sentences from President Barack Obama in November, the first two federal court cases in the district of Connecticut to receive presidential commutations.
William Baldwin, who was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to sell crack cocaine, became the first inmate convicted in the Connecticut federal court district to receive a commuted sentence from Obama, U.S. Attorney’s Connecticut office spokesman Thomas Carson said in an email to the News. Baldwin was arrested in 2008 as a result of Operation No Nonsense, an investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration alongside other local police departments, including the New Haven Police Department. The operation arrested a 17-member crack cocaine ring operating in and around the Newhallville neighborhood, according to a 2009 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Connecticut.
Though Carson said his office cannot speak on behalf of Obama’s decision to commute Baldwin’s sentence, he said the shortened sentence may be because of Baldwin’s previous drug convictions, his minor role in the drug ring and his good behavior in prison.
Kerwin Blount, also convicted on federal drug offenses, was serving the 16th year of his 292-month prison sentence when he received a commuted sentence on Nov. 22. In 2002, Blount was convicted of distributing more than 50 kilograms of cocaine in Newhallville as lieutenant of a drug ring during a two-year period.
Both Baldwin’s and Blount’s sentence commutations are contingent on their enrollment in residential drug treatment programs, according to White House press releases. Prior to their departure from prison, inmates will collaborate with probation offices to devise their reentry plans, said Warren Maxwell, deputy chief U.S. probation officer for the District of Connecticut.
According to Maxwell, his office is responsible for referring inmates to medical professionals for assessments depending on their individual needs, which may include substance abuse or mental health concerns. These assessments take into account static variables, such as an individual’s criminal history, and dynamic variables, such as their living conditions, Maxwell said.
The two inmates will be assigned to varying lengths of residential medical programs hosted by probation office-contracted facilities, Maxwell said, adding that inpatient stays typically range from 30 days to six months.
“We look at literally every aspect of a person’s life during the pre-release plan[ning] process because we want to develop that plan in partnership of the person being released,” Maxwell said. “We want them to feel like [the plan] is done with them, not to them.”
After commuting the sentence of 79 other federal inmates on Nov. 22, Obama has granted clemency to more than 1,000 offenders throughout his eight years in office.
Baldwin is scheduled to be released nine years before his initial sentence, and Blount is set to be released six years before his initial sentence.