And I came upon this:
and here: http://www.debcarrigerrichards.com/1/post/2013/05/butterfly-mom.html#comments
My daughter, Sarah, and I met in the Quad Cities on Thursday, and drove down to spend a half hour with Daniel. (A half hour with Daniel takes place on a timed, closed circuit television monitor in black and white with each of us holding a phone.) We talked about possibilities: what he wanted, what he wanted to say to the Judge, what we expected, what we could maybe do for him. The hearing was set for 10:30 the next morning, and she and I arrived a little early.
Things were pretty quiet. It appeared to be "sentencing Friday" because the case right before Daniel's was also a sentencing hearing. Right before his lawyer came out to tell us they were ready to start, a small crowd of people came down the aisle toward us, and through the doors. They poured into the hallway, and one of the women was sobbing--tears of relief of joy; thanking God; they all celebrated with her. We couldn't help but feel happy and relieved for their good news.
Years ago, a friend told me, "Your children are going to have experiences you don't want them to have." It's true. I did not want my child to ever have to stand in a courtroom in prison garb, shackled and handcuffed, before a Judge. I never wanted my child to be labeled "drug dealer" by a representative of the Federal Government. I never wanted him to be isolated from family, community, and meaningful work. I will probably always feel some sadness that he has had to experience these things. And I will probably always feel some sadness for Sarah, for me, and for others who have been affected by his choices. It's pulled me into a world I never wanted to be part of.
But let me tell you what happened next. The Federal Courts use a point system to determine the length of sentences for criminal cases. As a result of the plea agreement Daniel entered, he had 18 points. Because of recent marijuana legislation*, some laws will soon be in effect that will reduce charges and sentences for defendants involved in marijuana cases like Daniel's. Instead of having all of those affected returning at a later time to ask to have their sentence adjusted, they are granted a 2-point reduction. In addition to the 2-point reduction, Daniel was also granted another point off for good behavior the past 8-1/2 months in jail, bringing his point total to 15. At 18 points, the sentencing guideline is 24-30 months in Federal Prison. At 15, the guideline is 18-24 months. Daniel was also going in that morning with the possibility of full probation or being released to a halfway house; what he was hoping for.
*Marijuana laws are in a state of flux, as you might imagine with the recent legalization in some states. Maybe you have strong feelings on either side of the issue, and, in my opinion, there are good arguments on both sides. Regardless, this is what is rolling toward us, and I believe it's pretty much unstoppable.
A few points were presented by both Daniel's attorney and the Government Representative, and then Daniel had an opportunity to apologize (to the court, to everyone involved, to his family). The Judge questioned him about some things (who was there with him, for example. Jack was at the Masters' all week, so he couldn't be there). And then Judge Shadid said something like this:
You may not agree with what I'm going to tell you, but let me tell you what it's based on. Let me tell you about the woman who was just in here. She is 51 years old, and has been on crack cocaine since she was fifteen. She did not have a good upbringing, and didn't even finish high school. She was arrested over a year ago, and released on bond. She went out and got a job at McDonalds, the only job she could get. And all this time she has stayed clean. She is working on her GED. The people at McDonalds appreciate and support her, and enjoy working with her. I let her go free.
You have a lot more going for you than she does. You, also, were out on bond, and you decided not to comply. That's why you've spent the last 8-1/2 months in jail. I want you to turn your life around, and I think you will. But I'm giving you a full sentence of eighteen months. I want you to have more time to think about what you've done.
I know my son is disappointed. But to me and to Sarah it felt sane and just and fair. It felt like Grace. And I will never forget the respect with which Judge Shadid treated all of us. A courtroom that is run this way gives me hope for our judicial system.
Keep in mind that the Judge could have given him twenty-four months. He could have fined him a minimum of $4,000, but chose to waive that. And he could have ignored the plea agreement altogether and given Daniel more than the maximum. When we left, Sarah called her friend Dora, who is a Public Defender in the Quad Cities. She said she's seeing defendants in cases like Daniel's get Five Years. Hearing that put things in perspective.
The past nearly nine months will count as time served, and federal offenders serve 85% of the sentence. That shakes out to an additional six months for Daniel. Judge Shadid has requested that he be sent to a Federal Prison Camp in Illinois, which, if it works out, will be much less restrictive than the county jail where he is now detained.
I called Jack, and Sarah called Carl. I didn't feel like talking to anyone else.
Daniel called us when he got back to Aledo, and the three of us processed some. Then Sarah and I spent the rest of the day together. We ate lunch. We went down to the River, where we walked some and breathed in the fragrant spring air and saw five white pelicans circling. It helped me in sorting out and overcoming some of the emotion of the morning. It felt like Grace.
What all of "this"--the time spent in jail, the sentencing, the separation from the rest of life--feels like to Daniel, I can't say. I hope that someday he comes to recognize it for what it is: Grace, Actually.