Clemency for Jesse Dunaway: Serving Life for a Nonviolent Drug Offense

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Jesse Dunaway is currently the only person in Virginia serving a mandatory minimum life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. Jesse is extremely remorseful for his actions and has already served 15 years. His punishment is harsher than most men receive for extremely violent crimes and he was over sentenced for his offense compared to similar cases. Still, Jesse does not make excuses for his poor decision to get involved with cocaine — he was hoping to make extra money for his family. At his trial, prosecutors to "tried out" a new mandatory minimum law resulting in his life sentence. 

The best person to tell Jesse's story is Jesse himself. Please read this message from him and sign my petition asking Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant Jesse clemency. 

"I am not the same person that came to prison in 2004. I can honestly say that this process has been the hardest years of my entire life. I had to grow up and I became a much better person, admit my mistakes and to ask for forgiveness. I just want the second chance to do what is right and to make a difference.

Prison has fueled me with a deep desire to be a productive man and a good father. I dream of being able to work, come home to family, and be at peace. I want to be a father to my children and appreciate even the smallest things in life. I just hope and pray that my freedom is granted so I can live productively and positively.

When I came to prison, I was a 23 year old boy. I wasn't a grown man. Many things that I thought I knew about life, I did not. Thirteen years later, I look back at how much I have changed and grown into a man that wants so much out of life. I just want to be a father to my children and a role model for young men and endangered youth, as I was. It is more important to live by principles and to be a positive role model and example for others. I have a passion to be an active advocate for disadvantaged youth and young men who have a high probability of making the wrong decisions in life.

While in prison, I had limited access to educational and vocational programs due to my life sentence but I never gave up. I found the opportunity to excel in Food Service and completed the Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management program. This program is a 2 year course and I was one of the first to complete it in the Department of Corrections. I had the highest class scores in it's existence. This had inspired me to pursue a career as a chef or restaurant manager/owner. I worked as a cook and developed menus for the staff members while incarcerated. I earned a lot of respect for my work ethic and character. I was entrusted to be solely in charge of the daily menu for staff and food preparation on a daily basis.

I take pride in doing what is right and that is my mission in life. I have ambitions and dreams to become a productive citizen and a mentor to young adults to achieve their greatest potential. I just need a second chance."