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Oliver B.’s Story: Prison Is the Wolf That Scatters Sheep

My brother has served 25 years of a mandatory life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. John is now 70 years old with no prospects...
John acknowledges that he was wrong by getting involved with drugs and has said that it was something that he is truly ashamed of doing, especially because our mother and father instilled a set of values in each of us. He yearns for an opportunity to get involved with our...

Cynthia Powell: 25 Years for 35 Pills

Cynthia Powell was not an addict. She was not a dealer. She sold 35 of her diabetes pain pills to a confidential informant—for $300. Just...
“She was never an addict,” says Jackie. “She wasn’t a drug user, or a drug dealer.” She was charged with trafficking in hydrocodone over 28 grams, less than 30 kilos and possession with intent to sell or deliver a legend drug (prescription).

Calvin Bryant: 17 Years for a First Offense

Beloved by friends, family, teachers, and co-workers, Calvin Bryant is now serving 17 years for a first-time offense. His sentence was grossly enhanced by Tennessee’s...
Life delivered him a harsh blow, in the form of a government informant. This person, a longtime family friend, pressured Calvin repeatedly to get ecstasy pills for him. He played on Calvin’s sympathies, telling Calvin that he needed the drugs to make money to feed his family.

The Story of Mandy Martinson

Mandy Martinson was serving 15 years in federal prison for helping her dealer-boyfriend in exchange for feeding her methamphetamine addiction. Mandy’s judge, unable to go...
the judge was forced to give Mandy a mandatory minimum of 10 years for the conspiracy and possession charges, and a mandatory five-year consecutive term for the gun charge, for a total sentence of 15 years behind bars.
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Robert Shipp: The World Gave Up on Him. He Proved Them Wrong

“It feels like the world has given up on you. That you are just some throwaway, someone who is irredeemable.” That’s how Robert Shipp describes being sentenced to life in prison for a drug crime in 1994.Read More
Issue: Sentencing

Reentry Story: “Relentless Self-Advocacy”

“I enrolled at Portland State University eight days after my release. I have since earned 24 credits, with a 4.0 GPA, earning me the commendation of placement on the President’s List.”  Read More
Issue: Reentry

Amber Carlson: Mother Gets 10 Years

Deep in addiction and mental illness and trying to scrape together enough money for gifts for her kids one Christmas Eve, Amber Carlson agreed to transport methamphetamine for a drug dealer. She had no prior felony convictions, but she got...Read More
State: Arizona
Issue: State

Chris Young: “Barely on the Totem Pole” and Life in Prison

The judge at Chris Young’s trial described his life sentence as “way out of whack.” The absurdity of his punishment is matched, though, by the fierce passion for self-improvement and education that drives Chris now, even as he is doomed...Read More
State: Tennessee
Issue: Sentencing

Success on the Inside: Michael Monsivais

In prison, Michael Angel Monsivais saw a huge need. And instead of waiting for someone else to fill that need—the warden, the BOP, the government—he took matters into his own hands.   Read More
Issue: Drug-free school zone law

My Family Incomplete: Ariel K

“I love and care for my father I feel like any other daughter does but I know even though he has not been in  my life as much as other fathers he is the one I can thank for helping...Read More
Issue: Mandatory Minimums

Stephanie Nodd

Desperate to make ends meet as a 20-year-old single mom to three young kids, Stephanie Nodd became involved with a drug dealer. Eventually, she was caught up in the conspiracy that would bring both of them down—and she was sentenced...Read More
Issue: Mandatory Minimums

Michael Daniels, Sr.: A Long Sentence “Sucks the Life Out of Someone”

This father shares a special bond with his son, one forged in cooking, family foods and traditions, and lots of father-son time—not to mention that they share a name. That bond remains strong even as the whole family suffers during...Read More
Issue: Sentencing
Jacqueline mother prison photo

Jacqueline C.’s Story: “There Is No More Pretending to Be Okay”

Jacqueline’s mother has been in prison since 1999 on drug conspiracy charges. Her deterioration in prison has been shocking—and has taken a huge toll on the whole family.  Read More
Issue: Sentencing