SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - An odd partnership between a San Francisco BDSM company and the nonprofit Three Strikes Justice Center has freed Charles Lucas, who was serving a life sentence under California's Three Strikes Law.
Lucas had served 15 years on a 28-years-to-life sentence in Kern Valley State Prison for drug possession and evading arrest. He was freed last weekend.
The bondage and fetish website Kink.com and its CEO Peter Acworth raised money for Lucas' case in collaboration with the Three Strikes Justice Center, run by criminal defense attorneys Givelle Lamano and Angeli Fitch.
"I'm thankful. I'm free," Lucas said in a video put out by the center. "I started crying and I called my mother and she started crying."
California's Three Strikes Law, enacted in 1994, mandated prison sentences of 25 years to life for defendants with three felony convictions.
In 2012, voters approved Proposition 36, an amendment to the law that allowed third-strike offenders serving time for nonserious and nonviolent crimes to petition for reduced sentences. To receive a life sentence, the law now requires a third strike offender to be charged with a serious or violent felony.
While the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimated last year that 1,804 inmates serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes under the Three Strikes Law have been released, hundreds still await hearings.
In an interview, Lamano said that when Prop. 36 was enacted, many inmates didn't understand the language of the amendment and whether they would be eligible for resentencing or release. The Three Strikes Justice Center put together a flow chart distributed through a prison newsletter that made the guidelines more understandable.
Lamano said her organization received more than 1,000 letters from inmates seeking help with their cases.
"We didn't realize how much money it was going to cost to try to help all of these inmates, and when Kink.com and Peter Acworth stepped up they were just our angels," Lamano said.
Acworth's wife, Susan Clancy, is a member of the center's fundraising committee. "She told her husband about it and he was thrilled to help and they threw us our first fundraiser," Lamano said.
In a statement on Lucas' release, Acworth said: "As someone who has made mistakes in my own life, and has seen firsthand how differently the justice system treats those with resources, and those without, this became an important and personal cause. We need to do more to free people like Mr. Lucas."
Lucas is the first inmate to be released with the Three Strikes Justice Center's help. "He said he couldn't wait to go home and eat his mom's peach cobbler," Lamano said.
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