Lea Anne Blystone was sentenced to seven years in federal prison. She wasn’t sentenced to die. But when COVID hit her prison, her medical conditions made her especially vulnerable to the potentially fatal disease. Here, she describes her journey from fear to freedom.
When I was first sentenced to seven years in a federal penitentiary, my family was worried that my life was in danger. Not only is prison recognized as one of the most volatile environments known to man, it is notorious for its lack of health care.
Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease known as Lupus. This condition puts me at a higher risk of serious illness, because I have a compromised immune system. And this was long before anyone had ever heard of a nasty little virus known as COVID-19.
In late March, as the coronavirus was sweeping through our nation, all federal facilities were placed on lockdown. I found myself confined to a small room with five other women. Like most other facilities, FMC Carswell was at 130 percent capacity. These conditions made it ripe for an outbreak. To further compound the situation, we were unable to wash clothes, change our bedding, or even obtain proper cleaning supplies.
During this time, I had gotten an email from FAMM reaching out to medically at-risk prisoners who could face dire consequences if they contracted the coronavirus. I immediately filed out the form and called my family to also call FAMM. It was then that my family expressed true horror that I might never leave that facility alive.
As the days clicked slowly by, I started to believe that I might die behind bars. But then, out of the blue, I was called down to the counselor’s office, where I was informed that an attorney wanted to speak with me. It seems that FAMM was working behind the scene, contacting various lawyers in hope that one would agree to represent me in a compassionate release motion. I was overcome with tears of joy when he stated that he would be that lawyer.
A short week later, the lawyer was already gathering information about my medical history in order to file a motion for a compassionate release. Once the motion reached the federal judge who initially ruled in my case, I was released from prison three weeks later. It would seem that God not only hears the cries of the afflicted; He also works in an expedient fashion.
If it were not for the Clearinghouse, my seven-year sentence could have turned into a death sentence. I don’t just owe them a debt of gratitude, I quite literally owe them my life. While incarcerated, many inmates make promises about devoting their time and energy toward fixing the system. I was no different. Since my release, I have dedicated countless hours advocating for prison reform. FAMM has been the avenue through which I have been able to fulfill that pledge. I have life, a voice, and a purpose.
Do you have a loved one who needs help applying for compassionate release? Please take a look here.