At this moment, thousands of people safely completing their sentences at home are living in fear that they’ll be sent back to federal prison through no fault of their own. A memo issued in the final days of the Trump administration threatens to send around 4,500 people on home confinement back to federal prison after the pandemic ends. If the Biden administration doesn’t act to fix this, families like Paulette Martin’s will be torn apart. Here is her story.
“Today we’re going to work on your C-major scale,” Paulette Martin announces to her piano student, Amaya. Amaya is her granddaughter, and the fact that she is only three years old doesn’t seem to be stopping either of them. “Tuesdays and Thursdays is when she’s out of daycare and she gets her lessons,” Paulette explains. “She’s working on ‘Jingle Bells’ now. She’s got a natural ear for music!”
Paulette, 74, has been out of prison for more than 15 months. On home confinement under the CARES Act, she spends her days settling back into life and family after 16 years behind bars on drug distribution charges. Her original sentence was life, later reduced to 30 years, which means she has many years left on home confinement, a fact she sometimes has a hard time adjusting to. Her difficulties are made even worse by the uncertainty that hangs over her head, worrying she may have to go back to prison because of the OLC memo.
Before prison, she graduated from Howard University, then went on to a successful career in the arts. She owned a school of performing arts in Washington, D.C., where she taught tap, ballet, modern jazz, piano, organ, and voice.
In prison, Paulette used her leadership abilities to tutor more than 300 students to obtain their GEDs. “They called me Mama Martin,” she says. “They wouldn’t listen to anyone but me.”
She’s disappointed that President Biden hasn’t done anything to address the “black cloud” that is the OLC memo. “We’re out here, trying hard to do everything right, be with our families, and we might be snatched away again. It’s not right.”
Please join us in urging the Biden administration to take action and #KeepThemHome! Add your name to FAMM’s Keep Them Home campaign to help families.