My Story: Sherrie D.

Sherrie_and_WalterSherrie’s son, Walter, is currently serving a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. He is scheduled to be released in 2020.

When all this came about, my son had never been in trouble before, so I thought, this shouldn’t be too bad. I thought my son may get maybe 3-5 years as a first-time, nonviolent offender. Little did I know, the federal court system treats you worse than anything I could’ve imagined.

After they raided his house, they did not bother him until 4 years and 363 days later—after 5 years, they can’t charge you. Even the pre-sentencing services guy said he couldn’t believe they were charging him. I was just amazed. I kept thinking, maybe they’ll just drop this, they haven’t said anything, they haven’t charged him. [After the raid], he moved to Las Vegas; he was working and doing well. No drugs, no problems—just a productive citizen. If you didn’t bother somebody for nearly 5 years, how terrible could you be? They also let him self-surrender—this is not a person who is a threat to society.

My son, he’s the nicest guy. I’m not trying to paint him a certain way because he’s my son—he just happens to be a nice guy. People out in Las Vegas really fell in love with him. One guy he worked with, when Walter went to prison, he cried. He met a girl out there—they had a baby, and she is now his fiancé. I said to her, “Honey, he’s gonna be gone, and you’re gonna be alone for a long time,” but she said Walter treated her better than anyone she had ever met.

When people ask me where my son is and I say, “prison,” they say, “Not Walter, he’s the nicest person,” or “Why is he in prison? He doesn’t belong there, you need to do something.” That makes me feel awful because there’s nothing I can do.

It’s been hard. I had a heart attack last year because all I do is try to figure out how to help my son. I’ve written the president, Eric Holder, members of Congress. I wrote Jesse Jackson, I wrote Al Sharpton. I’m not saying my son is innocent, but they gave him too much time. He’s done three years already—I think that’s enough.

With these drug cases, they portray our children as making millions of dollars selling these drugs, but these kids are making just enough to pay their rent and maybe buy a car—they’re not kingpins. And, in the end, the drugs are still on the street no matter how many of our sons they lock up, so what’s it doing?

[Sherrie says that her son, who will be in his forties when he is released, had a happy childhood. That changed when, in 1993, Walter watched as one of his best friends fatally shot himself in a freak accident.]

He was a really nice kid, but after that, I did have a few problems with my son. I got him the help that he needed to help him get through it, but that did something to him. But, Walter finished high school, played sports—he was an excellent athlete, baseball was his sport—and then he went off to college. I think he needed more family support [while at college]; a lot of kids are not ready for all that freedom. He messed up a little bit. I tried to get him to go back to school, and now that he’s incarcerated, he’s always saying, “I wish I would’ve gone back to college, ma.” But he’s certified in heating and cooling, and he’s a certified trainer—he loves weight training.

His daughter is 2 years old now, and she looks just like my son. When she last saw him, it was so sweet; she knows it’s her daddy. When she was leaving, she said “Daddy gone, daddy gone,” and she just cried.

When my son was in [prison in] California, it was close to Nevada, so [his fiancé and daughter] could see him. Now, where he’s at, it takes them days to get there. I’m hoping I can go see him in October.

My health is better….I’ve been doing better. I have to. I have to stay around for my son, I have to help my son. Three years is long enough, there is no reason he should be in for another seven years. That can’t be what happens.