Man sentenced to life in prison for selling crack offers unique perspective to Montgomery County task force

A man sentenced to life for selling crack in the 1990s is out of prison and part of a Montgomery County task force that’s doing a top to bottom review of the police department.

Albert Reed got out of prison last year after serving nearly 25 years.

He moved in with his sister in Gaithersburg, started a business, and has gotten involved with his new community. He was selected to serve on the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force which met for the first time two weeks ago.

“My feeling is that I’m blessed to be here in this moment,” Reed said.

READ MORE: Montgomery County task force begins review of police department

Reed grew up in the suburbs of New York and said his family was devastated when his father died. Reed was just seven years old. Then he lost his mother 10 years later.

“Me and my younger sister were waiting for family to come and check on us and make sure that we’re all right,” Reed said. “And actually, nobody came.”

He said by then they were living in the projects.

“It was a situation where as a young kid, I felt like I had no other option but to go in the street now and make a living,” he said. “So I decided to sell drugs.”

In the years that followed, Reed got caught. He said the first two times there were minimal penalties. The third time, when he was caught with drugs, including crack, it was a federal crime that carried a life sentence.

He said that day in court, his mind went to what his grandfather had told him years before when he showed up in an expensive car and jewelry.

“(He said), ‘You don’t understand what you’re doing,’” recalled Reed. “‘People have a trick for guys like you. Because you think you’re smart, you know? And when they catch you, you’re gonna have to be a scientist par excellence to get out from under the trap that they laid for guys like you.’”

READ MORE: Montgomery County police reform under the microscope

It was the mid-90s and in addition to the three-strikes law, sentences were far harsher for selling crack than cocaine, disproportionally affecting Blacks.

Reed said he was dedicated to studying the law from behind bars. He was freed under the First Step Act of 2018 which changed the law for nonviolent offenders like him.

His perspective will contribute to decisions made by the task force convened by County Executive Marc Elrich to look for racial bias and ways to bring major change to the police department.

The task force is made up of about 80 people including citizens, county employees, and law enforcement. They’re examining budget, training, school resource officers, and even reorganization of the department.

Reed agrees police are needed but believes change should be transformative.

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The task force will make recommendations to the county executive by mid-January. On Wednesday, the county released a new report compiled for the task force.

Prince George’s County has a similar task force looking at policing and it’s expected to have recommendations next month.