Former President Donald Trump granted many Americans pardons before leaving office last week, including the founder of Death Row Records, Michael “Harry-O” Harris.
The record label founder’s sentence for drug trafficking was commuted by Trump, and Harris was released from the Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution near Santa Barbara, California, last week, according to the Daily Mail.
Harris was imprisoned in 1988 for the attempted murder of a police officer in 1987, however the officer recanted in 2011 and Harris was released from state custody. He was then transferred to federal prison to begin serving a 20-year sentence for a 1990 drug trafficking conviction and was set to be released in 2028, according to KCAL-TV. From prison, he helped Death Row Records get started.
A major piece of legislation championed by the Trump administration was the bipartisan First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill intended to benefit non-violent drug offenders. While Harris being freed was not related to this program, it still maintains the notion that prison reform continued to be a priority for the administration after the bill was signed.
In his first interview since his release, Harris thanked Trump for the pardon, but noted that this should always be a bipartisan priority.
“I appreciate Donald Trump, his children, his son-in-law. Whyever he did it, he did it, when so many others wouldn’t do it,” Harris told Daily Mail TV.
“I put in for clemency with Obama and it had to go through so many bureaucratic loopholes it never got to him I don’t believe. But it didn’t happen on his watch.”
“There’s not a dime of difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes down to results to me at this point. Until that change, I don’t have a dog in the fight, unless the people that’s in power deal with the people that are powerless in a respectful way.”
During the interview, Harris explained some of the tragic things he witnessed while incarcerated, and how he better understood the damage he might have done as a drug dealer in the past.
“I done sit in prison with people who have been on drugs for the last 20 or 30 years. I been in prison with crack babies, their parents is people who consumed the drugs that me and so many other people sold. And I had to sit with them, I had to talk to them, I had to see the results of what we did.”
Harris now says he wants to use his unique story to benefit at-risk youths and others who have gone through similar situations as him.
“The fact that I’m out of jail and I got a chance to help my people, and if I gotta go back to the past and talk about the past so that it’s never repeated on no level, I will do it til my dying days,”
He also expressed his goal to work with Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, who has wanted to pursue philanthropic missions following her divorce.
Harris’ story is incredibly inspiring and a testament to the need for common sense criminal justice reform in the United States. There are too many men and women behind bars for decades for non-violent offenses, even if they have radically changed for the better.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.