My name is Judy McCarroll. My son’s name is Lawrence McCarroll. We were both sent to prison for drug offenses in 1995. I was sentenced to 27 years, and Lawrence was sentenced to 33. For both of us, this was our first time being in prison. Lawrence was 19, and I was 41.
I got an early release due to the Drugs Minus Two reduction in 2015. I’m 66 years old now. And Lawrence is 47. He has been behind bars for 25 years – more than half his life.
Lawrence was a very smart boy coming up. He loves to read. I send him books and magazines and he gets newspapers. He keeps up with the news – more than even I do! So he calls me a lot telling me about what’s going on in the world. Since he’s been in, he got his GED and takes as many classes as he can.
He loves to help. He will help anyone that he can. We were a really close-knit family. When we had family reunions, Lawrence would put everything together. When my sister lost her twin boys, Lawrence was there to help her. He picked up the load, helping her with her rent, helping to take her places.
It really hurts me that he’s still in there. That’s my child, my only son. I’d rather be still in and he be out, so at least he could enjoy some of his life. That’s the way I feel, I guess, just being a mom.
The prisoners aren’t allowed to send cards anymore, and we aren’t allowed to send cards to them. Every year on Mother’s Day, I get a card for myself and put his name on it, just like he sent it to me. And every year, even when I was on the inside, I always sent him birthday cards, as many cards as how old he was. If he was 22, I sent 22 birthday cards. Thirty years old, 30 birthday cards.
But you know what I do now? I take a white piece of paper, I put “Happy Birthday” on it, and send it like that. Just a plain piece of paper with “Happy Birthday” on it. It hurts, but it’s something.
He wants to live a normal life as a responsible citizen. Especially now in the pandemic.
After I got out of prison, I started telling anyone who would listen about Lawrence and how his sentence was unfair. I’ve been just trying any and everything – news stations, newspapers, magazines, politicians. I wrote the judge so many letters.
Here’s what I tell people: Please give my son Lawrence a second chance in life. He knows he did wrong. He takes full responsibility for what he did. He made mistakes, but he deserves a chance to at least show the court that he’s changed, and let them decide. He was young, now he’s a grown man. He’s matured physically, spiritually, mentally. He just wants to come home and just get a job, pay taxes, get married, be a mentor to the young people of our society, just be with his family, be with his mom. He wants to be with his grown son and start healing our family. He wants to live a normal life as a responsible citizen. Especially now in the pandemic – he has hypertension and only one kidney, plus other medical problems that make him so vulnerable.
I pray for a change in the criminal system. There are so many people in there locked up for these long sentences for drugs – ghost drugs, mandatory minimum sentences, conspiracy charges. It doesn’t make any sense, and real families are hurting. Clemency is something the president could do – and it would bring justice to so many families like mine.
Lawrence calls me when he can. Now more than ever, with the pandemic, he wants to be home to help his mama. Because I’m 66 now, he’s worried. I have a lot of health issues of my own. “Mama, please stay in. Don’t go out. You know that coronavirus is serious. Please, Mama.”
I know my baby’s tired. He wants to come home. He wants to be a part of society. He’s got a good heart, a big heart. He wants to help our society, the youth, so they won’t make the same mistakes. He’s seen how crazy it is out there now. There’s only two ways out of that kind of life — that’s prison or death.
This mother needs her son. So many mothers just like me need their sons. Please let them show that they’ve changed and can live a decent life. Please give them a second chance.
Do you think that people in prison like Lawrence should have the opportunity to show that they deserve a second chance? If so, please read here about FAMM’s Second Chances Agenda.