Timothy Tyler is one of 111 inmates imprisoned by ‘unduly harsh sentences’ for non-violent drug offences in the 90s
In 1994, Timothy Tyler was sentenced to life in prison without parole for conspiracy and possession with intent to supply LSD. While following Grateful Dead around the states on their tour, Tyler was arrested twice and released with probation. He mailed a friend a supply of LSD on multiple occasions, a friend who had become a DEA informant, which led to his arrest and harsh sentencing due to a federal three-strikes law for persistent offences.
After serving 22 years, Tyler, along with 110 other inmates in the U.S, have been granted clemency by Barack Obama. This would see Tyler released by August 2018. If he completes a nine-month in-prison rehabilitation program, he may actually be eligible to be released as early as 2017.
The Obama administration is cracking down on some of the prison sentences doled out to non-violent offenders, relieving those after serving “unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes”, a statement said.
The Deadhead’s family said he “felt at home at Dead shows”. In his time in prison, Tyler listened to the Grateful Dead on his mp3 player, after years without music due to prison policy. His family have petitioned the government for his release with an online petition that's gained over 400,000 signatures.
Seth Ferranti, who in 1993 was sentenced to 25 years as an LSD kingpin, was released after serving 21 years. Speaking of the move by the Obama administration, he said: “I think it's a great move letting non-violent offenders like Tim Tyler out. Should have been done a long time ago. The US's prisons are full of non-violent drug offenders. It's nice of Obama but much more needs to be done.
“Setting free a few here and there and terminating their life sentence is good PR but it does nothing to solve the underlying problems of mass incarceration in this country.”
Tyler’s family have set up a fundraiser to help him with living costs and adjusting to life outside of prison when he finally gets out. Coming out of the federal prison bubble after two decades can be, for many, a difficult change.
“I adjusted pretty easily but still it was a difficult transition and I had a lot going for me. I think people like Tim will be okay, he has so much support,” says Ferranti. “But for a lot of ex-cons it's a rough road – almost two-thirds recidivate. It's tough to get a job and get credit and find a place to live. Men coming home after serving decades of their lives in prison need a support system. They need programs in place that will help them reintegrate back into society and currently these programs are lacking and non existent.”
“Change is in the air in America when it comes to the harsh drug policies that have imprisoned so many. Marijuana is on its way to legality. But we still have too many people locked up. We need to disband these self financed entities like the DEA, they owe their existence to waging war on American people just because they choose to listen to the Grateful Dead, smoke some pot and do a little LSD.”