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“In the early `90s, Norman Brown was found guilty of possession and distribution of crack cocaine—his third such criminal offense.
“As he stood nervously before the judge who would render his fate, the resulting mandatory sentence was crushing: life without parole in federal prison. He was 22-years-old.
“‘It’s hard to describe how hopeless I felt,’ recalls Brown, now 49. ‘I knew I’d made mistakes, but for a nonviolent offense, the time did not suit the crime. It seemed like overkill.'”