Mandatory Minimum Sentence Changes a Life

"I think it's pretty despicable but it really doesn't faze me," he said.

Protest Over Sentencing

In 2001, Forté stood trial and was convicted. Although it was his first offense, he received a mandatory sentence: 14 years in a federal penitentiary. Forté will not be free until he is at least 38 years old.

Simon thinks this is outrageous, especially considering the average sentence for manslaughter is less than five years. Moreover, the man who hired Forté struck a deal with prosecutors and faced no jail time at all.

For the past three years, the singer has worked tirelessly on reforming the mandatory minimum laws and getting Forté a new trial. "I'm prepared to fight this until the last possibility is exercised," Simon said.

Many judges -- both liberal and conservative -- agree with her on mandatory minimum sentences. They say the rules leave them unable to use their own discretion in evaluating individual cases.

Even Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court calls them "harsh and unjust."

Keeping Hope Alive

Both Simon and Forté acknowledge that he did something wrong, but that the punishment is unjust. They say community service is more appropriate.

Simon knows that some people might say Forté has gotten what he deserves, but she says the world and Forté himself are better off on the outside of prison, teaching people about the ills of drug use.

Forté said that is what he plans to do that when he is released. He wants to help vulnerable kids turn away from what he calls "the foolishness."

But for the moment, Simon and her son do their best to keep Forté's spirits up. They work with him on music. Taylor has written a song for his friend, and Simon records his raps over the phone.

"I'd probably be dead without hope," Forté said. "Everyday I wake up and I say, 'you know what? Today is the day that something good is going to happen.'"

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