BOYD, Texas -- At the Jackson family home on FM 2048 a few miles outside of Boyd, there is a feeling for the first time in decades that the family may finally be whole again.
Dickey Joe Jackson, 58, was one of the 200-plus non-violent federal inmates granted clemency by President Barack Obama on Wednesday morning.
It’s a moment Jackson's daughter thought would never come.
“I would think, ‘He's going to die in there and we just need to come to terms with it,'" April Anderson said.
Jackson’s story is one filled with missteps, but perhaps the type a lot of parents can understand.
In the early 1990s, the Jacksons discovered their youngest son, Cole, suffered from a rare autoimmune disease.
It would eventually require a bone marrow transplant, which for a family dropped by their health insurance company, added up to more than $200,000.
"He cared about his children and he did what he thought was his last option left," said Cole, who even today still suffers from poor health because of his disease.
According to his family, Joe started trafficking methamphetamine while on his trucking routes. His brother, Tommy, helped as well.
It wasn’t long before federal drug agents took notice, and soon the two brothers were in a federal courtroom in downtown Fort Worth.
“I remember thinking it was bad,” said April, who was there the day the sentence came down in 1996.
“I just keep here hearing the count, and then, ‘Life, life, life,”’ she recalled.
Her father received life behind bars, largely due to federal guidelines.
His attorney at the time, Bill Lane, says the case has stuck with him since that day.
“Dickey Joe Jackson was not a criminal. He was a father with no health insurance and no money to pay for his child's critical medical needs,” Lane told News 8 on Wednesday.
In the 21 years since Joe was put away, Cole recovered from his bone marrow transplant and has spent a lot of days wondering what life would’ve been like had his dad had more options.
“We were poor,” he said. “I look at it like a sacrifice. People who do worse don’t go even go to prison for life. I've never played catch, [we’ve] never worked on a car together, never sat and ate dinner together."
The family pushed for the courts to review the case over the years, but nothing seemed to work.
Even the prosecuting assistant U.S. attorney, Mike Snipes, says he advocated for Joe to be released.
“He’s done 20 years,” Snipes said on Wednesday. “I’m not blaming the judge, or anyone. With those sentencing guidelines, there wasn’t much to do.”
Indeed, the family says the federal mandatory guidelines probably sealed their father and uncle’s fate, even though neither man had any violent criminal history.
"If you do the crime, you need to do the time," Anderson said. "But the punishment, as far as non-violent drug offenses [go], doesn't fit."
Most of the family were able to speak with Joe by phone from prison on Wednesday.
They say it will still be another few months before he is released to a halfway house, which they are hopeful will be in North Texas.
And he isn’t the only Jackson brother about to come home.
President Obama commuted Tommy’s sentence, too.
“We’re a close-knit family, and we’re only going to get closer,” Cole said.
Of the 214 inmates who had their sentences cut short on Wednesday, nine are from North Texas.