Grant Clemency to John Knock
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John Knock is a nonviolent first time marijuana offender serving a sentence of Life without Parole. His story can be viewed on his web site.
John Knock 11150-017
PO Box 3000
White Deer, PA.
When John was found guilty and sentenced to Life without Parole for marijuana, my sister and I left the court room with our 87 year old mother, Bijou. Bijou would never see her youngest child free again. She was slumped over, wearing sun glasses so no one would see her cry. She was proud, brave and bewildered about the harshness of the sentence that her youngest child had received.
John grew up in a small Midwestern town the youngest of four children. His father, Calvin was a Presbyterian minister and his mother, Bijou, was a homemaker and later a librarian. When he finished High School he attended a small community college, but decided to go to San Francisco to get training to become an industrial diver.
John went to the San Francisco Bay area in the late 60s. In the late 60s California was the front line of social and cultural change. The life style was changing and becoming more fluid and casual. The universities were vibrant and students were testing the social norms. Observing social evolution's like the Civil Rights and Anti-War movement could not be viewed from a back row seat in a small mid-western town. San Francisco was the city of love and the center of changing culture.
John was part of the Good Earth Commune which is spotlighted in David Talbot’s book “Season of the Witch” At this time commune members organized schools, child care centers and opened food pantries and soup kitchens. They rehabilitated abandoned property and attempted to save houses from the wrecking ball and make a livable place for the dispossessed. Marijuana was a popular drug but was not considered a serious substance. That came much later. These were the early days before hard drugs and the accompanying violence.
In 1974 John met a girl whose sister was a friend from the Good Earth days and they have been together ever since. They married in 1982. After he was given a life sentence, they divorced, but she is a constant support in his life and his best friend. They have a 23 year old son.
In the 70s and 80s John was part of a loose group of individuals that imported marijuana into the northwest, Canada and Europe. For most of this time John lived out of the country. It was a fluid group and everyone had a niche of expertise. The individuals changed often. Around 1986-87 John withdrew and spent his time at home with his family doing various home improvement jobs, taking care of property and working on his relationships with family. It seems that other members of the group continued to import – even into the US.
John and his wife and child were living in Hawaii in 1994 when he was indicted for this complicated conspiracy. His wife was completing her PhD in biology and he was a stay at home Dad. He was enjoying his time with family and certainly his young son. This was the last time I spent with my brother while he was free. It is a vivid memory.
He met us at the Honolulu Airport, pushing a stroller wearing shorts and a shapeless T shirt – he had a brilliant smile. It was 1993 and now in his forties, he was a first time father of a toddler. He loaded our bags in an old Saab with some dents and upholstery rips. It ran silently with precision. Our Father, Calvin had died the year before and this was a time for family memories.
I can tell you about the brother I know. He is kind, calm, and unpretentious with humor and an easy smile. John is endlessly creative and is able to repair the most pedestrian objects- that always came in handy as he is quite pathologically thrifty, a quality no doubt inspired by Bijou.
He has watched his son grow from a 3 year old boy to the fine young man he is today with an engineering degree from an Ivy League college. His wife, now his ex-wife is his best friend and confident. She completed her PhD and is now a professor at a college in Pennsylvania. We all visit him together for holidays and birthdays. It’s both wonderful and bittersweet.
When Bijou, John’s mother died, I went through her belongings and found one of our Grandmother’s albums. There were hundreds of pictures from my father’s childhood in Iowa. There was one of a field and on the back written in my Grandmother’s precise script – Our Hemp Field – that reminded me of a conversation I had with my father before his death.
Calvin, our father, was in his 80s and I asked him if he ever smoked or drank. He was quiet for a moment. He was principled and could not lie. When he spoke again he said, “Well, I never smoked tobacco, but perhaps a little rope behind the barn,” A field of Hemp and smoking behind the barn did not ruin a life in the early 1900s, but it does ruin lives now.
While in prison John has kept up with the building trades and has taken and taught classes that cover conventional and non-conventional home building. He has developed ACE courses to benefit participants after they leave. He was a mentor in the Fathers Behind Bars Discussion Group and has been a mentor in Code-Challenge Programs since 2003. He tries to model non-violent conflict resolution.
John states that he lives his life in prison as a person of integrity and moderation. He is still housed in a high security institution because of the length of his sentence, but he lives responsibly and over these 18 years of incarceration he has an incident free, unblemished record.
He says, “My life is organized and I am productive. I teach various exercise classes and construction classes to other inmates as well as fixing radios and head phones. I help other inmates with their appeals and am known as the librarian, and the radioman, depending on the day and the person.”
If John were released he would not become a burden to society and would continue to live his life in a peaceful orderly manner. He is deeply sorry for all the problems his life style caused for his family and society. He should be released.
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