A War on Drugs Story

I tend to get a lot of e-mails from people who have found themselves on the wrong side of the justice system. This one I received today from a woman about to begin serving a 9 year federal sentence for selling 8 pain pills to an undercover operative (snitch) really typifies to me what is wrong with the war on drugs.

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.

Thanks for listening,

How sad. If you have some encouraging words for her (not legal advice for her appeal), I'm sure she'd enjoy reading them in the comments.

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    This is just awful. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Teresa on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 09:32:51 PM EST
    I have a dear relative who also became addicted to pain pills after back surgery. He came to know a lot of people with pills easily available and I'm sure he traded around with his sometimes. If you run out, you borrow from someone else and then return the favor, etc. If you get desperate enough, you buy and sell a few.

    The fact that she has beaten this addition is wonderful. She should do some community service helping others through this rather than be in prison. God, I wish someone could help her.

    I have a question. (none / 0) (#1)
    by TomK on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:00:58 PM EST
    Why don't most democrats care?

    House Judiciary (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:32:25 PM EST
    Chair Conyers has announced he'd be holding hearings on Sentencing, with a view towards legislation. I'm not finding anything scheduled on the Committee's page. The Representatives are currently on break, and may be found in their Districts.

    If you're a constituent, get to the following with this story.

    The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security shall have jurisdiction over the following subject matters: Federal Criminal Code, drug enforcement, sentencing, parole and pardons, internal and homeland security, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, prisons, criminal law enforcement, and other appropriate matters as referred by the Chairman, and relevant oversight.

    Chairman: Hon. Scott (D) Virginia, 3rd
    Hon. Waters (D) California, 35th
    Hon. Delahunt (D) Massachusetts, 10th
    Hon. Nadler (D) New York, 8th
    Hon. Johnson (D) Georgia, 4th
    Hon. Weiner (D) New York, 9th
    Hon. Jackson Lee (D) Texas, 18th
    Hon. Meehan(D) Massachusetts, 5th
    Hon. Davis (D) Alabama , 7th


    Still (none / 0) (#8)
    by TomK on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:49:47 PM EST
    Do you think putting this human being in a cage for 2 or 3 years is better?

    We don't want reduced sentencing, we want the war on drugs to stop.  It's a bad idea to treat drugs like a criminal justice problem, period.


    Sentencing reform is doable (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 11:09:36 PM EST
    for the first time in many years. I can't see blowing the window of opportunity just because it's not the ultimate solution.

    They're too busy drinking vodka... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:05:15 PM EST
    ...on the DC corksucking circuit.

    Well (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by TomK on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:18:29 PM EST
    What I mean is that I would expect republicans to be in favor of screwing people over like this, but I'm continually suprised that the dems are so complacent.  

    I would like to see a democrat take the lead here, and use his platform to correct this injustice.


    The problem (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by scarshapedstar on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:49:39 PM EST
    Is that the CNN headline would be "Democrats helping pushers?"

    Or something to that effect.


    It is not People (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:26:28 PM EST
    It is numbers. Both sides get to say that they are protecting Americas children with another victory in the War on Drugs. It is depersonalized, just like it is for the prosecutor, another notch in her belt.

    Placating fear while creating new fear (the war is not over) is a strategy to win votes and rise in ranks. Sad it is all BS.


    afraid of the blowback (none / 0) (#10)
    by baba durag on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 02:31:27 AM EST
    The Democratic Party... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Dadler on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 02:41:27 PM EST
    ...is simply a political party, it is not anything more.  It is beholden to big money, little ideas, and fear of failure.

    well boys and girls............... (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 03:16:59 AM EST
    it is most certainly about numbers, that part is correct. the numbers in question, however, are economic and political.

    economically, the "war on drugs" been vedy, vedy good to the prison industry, from the beat cop on down to the prison guard. billions & billions (with apologies to carl sagan) of dollars, and hundreds of 1,000's of jobs at stake. no way they're giving that up without a huge fight, ever.

    politically, everyone wants to get re-elected. as a rule, this doesn't happen by being "soft" on illegal drugs, regardless of what a losing proposition the whole thing is. the rubes are too stupid to realize this, it's not what they've been force-fed by the politicos and the media.

    no politician, with even a single functioning synapse, is going to vote for a bill reducing sentences for dealing illegal drugs, ever. not if they care about continuing in office.

    remember the golden rule: no one ever lost money or an election by underestimating the intelligence of the american public.

    It is not that bad. (none / 0) (#12)
    by JSN on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 08:10:31 AM EST
    Twelve states have been able to reduce their prison population by altering their sentencing system and providing more resources to prevent recidivism. The political cost of doing so does not appear large because the alternative was to spend money they did not have to build and operate new prisons. It is likely that other states with overcrowded prison will adopt similar measures.

    The federal government does not have any problem with finding money to build new prisons according to a BJS report they had a total 179,220 prisoners in 2005 and 89,972 (50.2%) had drugs as the most serious charge. The figures for the combined state prison population are 1,259,906 total with 250,900 (19.9%) with drugs as the most serious charge.

    I think it is possible to reduce the number of drug prisoners in state prisons because most taxpayers are unwilling to continue to pay to build and operate new prisons. The tough fight will be to get congress to alter federal sentencing policies and If they do so Bush might veto the bill.


    Like Tom K said.... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 08:33:23 AM EST
    sentence reductions, drug courts...these are mere band aids for the problem, a finger in the dyke.

    These laws need to repealed, not simply reducing the sentences.  10 minutes is too long to spend in jail over some stupid pills, or grass. 10 seconds even....

    Democrats love their prohibition too...Steve Kubby, a Libertarian candidate for president, has the right idea.  Check him out....


    And your strategy for repeal? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 01:26:46 PM EST
    Does it include fighting incremental reforms while we wait for everyone else to realize the problem's prohibition and not merely the most over the top implementations thereof?

    My personal strategy.... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 10:43:02 AM EST
    is voting against every incumbent in every election, and not voting for democrats or republicans whenever possible.

    To advocate for lighter sentences acknowledges the legitimacy of prohibition...I just can't do it.


    Binary thinking (none / 0) (#17)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 02:25:19 PM EST
    in an analog universe.