Stephanie Nodd served 21 years of a 30-year sentence for her involvement in a crack cocaine conspiracy. She was released in 2011 after reforms to the crack cocaine sentencing guidelines were made retroactive. Read this message from Stephanie from 2012, a year after her release from prison:
My name is Stephanie Nodd. Last year at this time, I was in a federal prison in Coleman, Florida. I was serving my 21st year of a 30-year sentence for a crack conspiracy I had been involved in for just a month.
My friends at FAMM sent me a note. They knew me because they had used my case to show how crazy it was that a first-time nonviolent crack offender like me got a 30-year sentence. FAMM was trying to convince the U.S. Sentencing Commission to make its new crack cocaine guidelines retroactive. They asked if they could talk about my case because they thought it would help. Of course, I said “yes.”
FAMM kept sending me updates about what they were doing and what was happening. I was nervous, but just kept praying that things would work out. FAMM got a lot of exposure for my case and even helped me write an article that was published in the Chicago Tribune. And if you were one of the 42,000 people who wrote a letter to the Sentencing Commission in support of making the guidelines retroactive – thank you!
Last summer, I got the good news that the Sentencing Commission had voted to make the new guidelines retroactive. I had spent a lot of time thinking about how such a change would affect me so that by the time I heard the news, I knew I was going to be eligible to go home soon after the guidelines became retroactive on November 1.
At the end of November I was granted my freedom. Look at the picture of me from that day and you will see how big my smile was!
21 years in prison and now I’m finally free!
I can’t tell you how good it feels to wake up every day surrounded by my family again. Getting used to life on “the outside” is not easy. I was 23 years old when I went to prison. Finding work when you have a record is hard. But I am determined to use my second chance to work hard, be a good mother and live a good life.
Without FAMM, I don’t think I would be home today. Thousands of other people have benefitted from the changes FAMM has made happen over the years, too. Some have gotten out of prison early like me and some have avoided prison altogether.
When you arrive at prison, the officers escort you away from your family. Then they take away your clothes and personal belongings and hand you a uniform. You feel like they will take away everything you have.
But the one thing they can’t take away is your hope.
My hope was that I would be able to be with my family again as soon as possible. I hoped that people wouldn’t forget me or the unjust sentence I received. I hoped people would help me change it.
The women I served with in prison have hopes, too. We would talk about what we wanted to do when we got out of prison. Sometimes it was easy to get depressed because we were facing so much time, but in the end, all we had was hope. FAMM helped keep our hopes alive by letting us know that they were as outraged by our excessive sentences as we were. They let us know that we mattered and that we were not forgotten.
They also gave hope to our family members like my daughter Elizabeth, who was born in prison shortly after I got there and then taken away to live with family.
FAMM wanted to know our stories. They cared about why we were there. They also knew that if they could tell our stories to people in power, they could get the laws changed. That’s why I was always happy to share my story. I knew what happened to me was wrong and I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through what I did.
I would get the FAMMGram newsletters in prison or special updates by email to let me know what was going on. It was so important to me to feel connected and to know that there were still things I could do to help myself and others, like write letters to members of Congress or the Sentencing Commission.
For so many of us that served time, or are still in prison, FAMM is an important organization not because it always succeeds, but because it always tries. FAMM’s compassion, concern, and hard work give hope to thousands of people still suffering from unjust sentencing laws.