a bird and a bottle

What It’s Like to be a Victim of U.S. Drug Policy
April 6, 2007, 8:07 pm
Filed under: bullshit, civil rights, criminal justice, drug war

Jeralyn at TalkLeft tonight published a truly heartbreaking letter from a middle-aged woman about to serve 9 years in federal prison for trying to buy the painkillers to which she had become addicted. The letter is an indictment not only of the “war on drugs” but also of prosecutorial discretion and the American criminal justice system as a whole.

I’m posting the letter in full (or at least as fully as Jeralyn did). Please read it.

In 2 months I have to self-surrender to prison for 9 years, for Conspiracy to distribute drugs, near a school. (You cannot even see the school from my house..) I am a 46 year old single mother of 4, grandmother of 4. I have no prior record. I was a successful business owner and very active in my community for 20 years. I hurt my back, working hard to support my children. The doctor gave me prescribed pain medication and I got addicted. I was entrapped into a drug deal for buying and selling 8 pills, to a snitch. They raided my home and locked me up. I spent a horrible week detoxing in jail. The judge sent me to addiction treatment center, suggested by the prosecution, and I have over 1 year clean.

“BEWARE! With Federal charges, you either plea bargain or pay dearly. Federal prosecutors want trophies, more convictions. The prosecution wanted me to plea to almost a million pills, LIE, under oath, swear to God to something I didn’t do. Then, sign a paper saying I could get 20 + years. I told them I learned, in treatment that I would be okay, if I just did “the next right thing. The prosecutor told me if I didn’t (plea) that I would be doing the “next worse thing.” They threatened more charges and a long prison term. What choice did I have?

My co-defendants, “cooperated” and got probation, even though they were prior felons. I chose to go to trial and was found guilty of distribution, I never denied that, I testified to the truth. However, the gov’t found a way to sentence me to distributing 23,000 pills, every pill me and my co-defendants were prescribed over a 5 year period. That’s a level 42 under the sentencing guidelines. That is 30 years to LIFE!

The judge admitted he believed that we were “just a bunch of addicts trading and fronting pills.” and departed 12 levels. The new lady prosecutor got her first trophy, and my inexperienced lawyer got experience, at MY expense. I have little hope for an appeal.

How can I be an addict and, yet, “distribute” ALL of my pills? I was buying, not selling! Of course What I did was wrong, but there should be a better solution. I continue aftercare and counseling on my own. The victims were mostly my family. I lost everything, and almost lost my life. I did lose a few years due to the amnesia effect of the drugs. My family, especially my teenage daughter, is so happy to finally have the old me back. But it wasn’t enough for the prosecution, because I wouldn’t lie for them, and they retaliated. Who is really getting robbed? I will cope with prison, everyone else will pay.

It will cost an est. $30,000.00 per year to the tax payers (more for the men and women who have dependents on welfare) and I could be working and contributing to society. My new lawyer is asking $45,000.00 to do my appeal. My father is paying. I hate it. I feel so defeated. Not much chance of winning against the Federal Gov’t, but hope is hope.

If you want to leave comments or words of encouragement for the letter’s author, leave them in comments and I’ll pass them along.


3 Comments so far
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I’m going to forward this letter all over the place. I don’t know what else to do.

Comment by Phoebe Love

Wow! I don’t know that one little comment of support can make much difference, but that’s terrible. I admire this woman’s courage in not lying. I’d have done the same.

Comment by Lynet

Thanks Phoebe and Lynet. Please forward as widely as possible. I think sometimes in the heat of policy debates we forget about the power of these personal — and heartbreaking — stories.

Comment by bean

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