Pubdate: Sat, 21 Jul 2012
Source: Tulsa World (OK)
Copyright: 2012 World Publishing Co.
Author: Cary Aspinwall


Gov. Mary Fallin has agreed to early release for inmate Patricia 
Spottedcrow, a young mother whose story of a lengthy sentence for a 
small marijuana deal was featured in a Tulsa World series on Women in Prison.

Under the governor's stipulations, Spottedcrow will be required to 
complete 120 days at a community-level Department of Corrections 
facility before she is released.

Spottedcrow, 27, was originally handed a 12-year sentence in a blind 
plea before a judge for selling $31 worth of marijuana to a police 
informant. It was a first-time offense, but because children were in 
Spottedcrow's home when she was arrested, a charge was added for 
possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor.

Last year, a Kingfisher County judge reduced Spottedcrow's sentence 
by four years. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board agreed to review 
Spottedcrow's case in April and voted 5-0 to recommend early release.

Spottedcrow's attorney, Laura Deskin, had been waiting eagerly since 
then for the news she and her client had hoped for.

"They were making me nervous there for a while," Deskin said. "They 
really did give it very careful consideration."

Spottedcrow must wait until a bed is available at a community 
corrections center to serve her remaining 120 days.

"One hundred twenty days, at this point, is a gift," Deskin said. 
"And it will give her the opportunity to look for work. The governor 
believed it would help her more smoothly transition to life after prison."

The community corrections center stipulation also includes a 
requirement for a work-release program. Spottedcrow has four children 
whom her mother has been caring for on an $8 per hour salary.

Her mother, Delita Starr, was also charged with a drug crime, but she 
was given a 30-year suspended sentence so she could care for 
Spottedcrow's four children while their mother was incarcerated.

After Spottedcrow's story was published in the Tulsa World's 2011 
series "Women in Prison," a groundswell of support emerged. Some 
cited it as an example of sentencing disparities in Oklahoma's 
judicial system, raised questions of racial bias and wondered about 
the long-term effects on her young children.

"It was such an excessive sentence for the crime that it was 
shocking," Deskin said. "It's good that the news media got a hold of 
it. But she's certainly not the only case of this in Oklahoma. There 
are other Patricia Spottedcrows."

Board member Marc Dreyer, senior pastor at Tulsa's Memorial Baptist 
Church, was instrumental in getting early consideration for Spottedcrow's case.

He met with Spottedcrow while visiting Eddie Warrior a few months 
ago, after reading about her case in the Tulsa World. He requested 
that her case be reviewed early at the board's April hearing.

"It's so rare to be granted early review, I'm so grateful to him," Deskin said.

She spoke to Spottedcrow's mother and case manager at Eddie Warrior 
Correctional Facility after learning of the governor's decision.

"They are very thrilled, and her kids cannot wait to see her," Deskin said.

Now she wants to focus on work and obtaining an education, Deskin 
said. Spottedcrow, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, has 
been encouraged to apply for tribal scholarship consideration.
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