“Parenting from Prison: The Collateral Damage of Harsh Mandatory Sentences”

from the Deseret News:

…Stephanie and her kids were on the edge of an incarceration wave that pulled in thousands of parents and hundreds of thousands of children at the end of the last century. In 1991 there were 936,500 minor children with a parent in state or federal prison. By the end of 1999, there were 1,498,800, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics — more than a 50 percent leap in less than a decade. …

But even if Stephanie was guilty as charged, her sentence would by any measure be extreme. In 1988, she was handed a 30-year sentence for a first-time nonviolent offense, a sentence designed for violent drug kingpins leading gangs and cocaine smuggling rings. Federal law has no parole, just a 15 percent “good time” reduction. The minimum she would serve would be 25 ½ years.

The average convicted rapist in the era in which Stephanie was convicted served 5.4 years of a 12-year sentence, said a 1992 U.S. Justice Department study.

Today, in her native Alabama, the mandatory minimum for Class A felonies, including rape and kidnapping, is 10 years. Manslaughter, a Class B felony, carries a minimum of two years and a maximum of 20. The typical street-level dealer, the classification that would come closest to describing Stephanie, was sometimes in and out of county lock up the same day.

It is thus no surprise that over the years, whenever prison officials heard how long her sentence was, they would ask, “Who did you kill?”


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