Pubdate: Sun, 18 Jan 2004
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 San Antonio Express-News
Author: Jan Jarboe Russell
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


The Texas town of Tulia has been synonymous with injustice since 1999,
when 16 percent of the small town's black population was railroaded on
phony drug charges. At the opposite end of the injustice scale lies
Enron, the white-collar crime of the decade.

Nonetheless, 26-year-old Kizzie White of Tulia, who spent four years
in prison for a crime she did not commit, has some practical advice
for 42-year-old Lea Fastow of Houston, who will go to jail for her
part in the fabled Enron shenanigans.

"When her children look up at her and ask her when she's coming home,
tell her to bite her lip hard and tell them, 'Soon,'" said White, who
was one of the 35 Tulia residents convicted in the 1999 drug bust.
"Then tell her to pray as hard as she can for the strength not to go
crazy with worry."

The deal that Fastow has worked out is as follows: She has pleaded
guilty to filing false tax forms in return for serving five months in
jail before her husband, Andy, the central figure in the case, serves
his sentence. The Fastows have two sons, ages 4 and 8, and are
understandably anxious to have at least one of the parents at home.

The basic idea of preventing overlapping prison sentences for husbands
and wives is a good one. It's a good idea for rich people like Lea and
Andy Fastow and an equally good idea for poor people like Kizzie White.

Across the country, an estimated 1.5 million children have a parent
behind bars, an increase of more than half a million since 1991,
according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Some of these children live with grandmothers - as Kizzie White's two
did. Others bounce from relative to relative. Some wind up in
long-term foster care. Eventually, many wind up in prison themselves.

The father of White's 6-year-old son was also one of the Tulia
residents arrested and convicted of selling drugs on the word of a
white undercover police officer who is an admitted liar.

Neither Kizzie nor her young son's father, Cash Love, were guilty.
Both have been pardoned, as have all the Tulia defendants. But their
son bears the scars of his parents' injustice. He sees a therapist
and, according to Kizzie, is "tremendously angry." She worries he will
be at risk for what his parents were falsely accused of: drug use.

Her 10-year-old daughter is, on the surface, handling the situation
better than her son.

"But all of us lost four years that we'll never get back," Kizzie
said. "The hardest part was trying to stay positive when I was in
jail. You can't worry about the outside life. You just have to focus
on living through it."

Since she got out of prison, Kizzie has taken a job with a private
health care company caring for elderly patients. She finds the work

"I like taking care of people. I know what it feels like to be in
pain, and it makes me feel good to be a good caretaker," she said.
Besides, she's providing for her children.

Ironically, Lea Fastow might find herself in a similar position one
day. In 1990, when she and her husband took jobs at Enron, Lea, who
has an MBA, had large ambitions in the business world. Now she seems
to have turned her back on that world. She is taking classes at the
nursing school at the University of Houston and has told friends she
hopes to one day be a physician's assistant. The world of business has
lost its appeal.

In 1999, the issue of what would happen to Kizzie White's children
when she went to jail was never news. She fits the profile of most
women in jail: She's poor. She's a woman of color. No one believed her
when she insisted the undercover officer who accused her of selling
cocaine was a liar.

Meanwhile, the fate of the Fastows' sons, whose parents earned more
than $60 million from 1997 to 2000, has been front-page news all over
the country. Their fate should be a consideration, as should the heavy
social cost on all children whose parents are behind bars for
nonviolent crimes. If nothing else, Lea Fastow has done the country a
favor by calling attention to an invisible problem.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake