Barbara Scrivner, a California woman serving a 30-year prison sentence for refusing to testify against her drug dealer husband and his associates. She was slammed with 30 years thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing laws which are (thankfully) no longer on the books, despite having no history of violence.
While in prison, Barbara has “graduated from a drug-addiction program in prison and became a certified drug counselor; she nearly completed her bachelor’s degree in Bible studies; and she’s finally dealing with her previously undiagnosed mental illness issues.” She should be an ideal candidate for early release via clemency, but 20 years on she continues to languish in prison while her daughter and grandson grow up largely without her.
Now, President Obama claims he intends to grant clemency to “hundreds” of drug offenders like Barbara. Whether he actually will remains to be seen, as the Justice Department apparently has not started processing applications.
Meanwhile, Scrivner is trying not to get her hopes up that this time will be different. She struggles to understand what her life’s purpose is and why her seemingly robust clemency application has not been successful.
If her petition is denied again, she has a little bit more than five years until she can be released to a halfway house near her daughter in Fresno. Her daughter Alannah says it will be strange to see her mother for the first time outside of prison walls.
Scrivner says the new petition has filled her with hope, which scares her, because she doesn’t want to be let down again. The eye shadow runs down her face, creating blue tracks on her tanned cheeks. “Ten years is a long time to be in prison. And now it’s been 20 years.”
"It just doesn’t seem real to me," she said.
Last month, the president walked into the East Room to greet dozens of U.S. attorneys who traveled to the White House to discuss criminal-justice issues. The president told them he was expecting an influx of clemency applications for his new push, and warned that he wanted them to personally examine them all and not “reflexively” deny them.
"I take my clemency authority very seriously," he told them.
With just a few years left of Obama’s presidency, Scrivner, and others, will soon find out if he means it.