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 Shari Natysin’s will be torn apart. Here is her story.
Shari Natysin loves being a mom. As she puts it, she and her daughter Alexis, 13, “do everything together. We take our three dogs on walks, we swim, play badminton, shoot hoops, you name it. Right now she’s got us hooked on this TV show, ‘Outer Banks.’”
It’s great that motherhood suits the 35-year-old: She’s now pregnant with Alexis’ little sister or brother.
In June 2021, Shari was released to home confinement under the CARES Act. In 2019, she was sentenced to 46 months for wire fraud and tax evasion, and her Bureau of Prisons out date is December of 2022.
“Being home has been amazing, especially when it comes to my family. When I was in prison, it was a strain on my husband, being the only parent at home for our teenaged daughter. She had a very hard time when I was in prison, and now she’s back to her old self.”
But Sheri’s happiness gave way to anxiety when she found out about the OLC memo that might send her back to prison at the end of the pandemic.
“My anxiety is through the roof,” she says now. “From morning to night. It’s the feeling of constant vigilance: Are the two land line phones plugged in? Has the halfway house left me a message with bad news? I’m constantly googling ‘when is the pandemic emergency over,’ because that’s when I have to go back. As if there’s an actual date I can steel myself for, even though I know there isn’t one.”
None of this anxiety is good for the baby, Shari knows, and if she has to go back to prison, it will all be much, much worse. “Medical care in the prison is non-existent. I have fibromyalgia, lupus, hypertension, and asthma, and when I was inside, the ‘treatment’ they gave me made everything way worse. I can’t even imagine how horrific it would feel to be in prison while I’m pregnant. Also, I’m a high-risk pregnancy. I’m terrified, for myself and for my baby.”
For now, Shari is trying to get beyond her own fears and advocate a solution to this mess with other women in her position, with whom she trades news and updates about the situation. She treasures every moment she has with her family, and tries to stay focused on those. That includes family meals every night. “I’m not much of a cook,” Shari says, “but no one seems to mind. The point is that we’re all together. At least for now.”
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.