Barbara Scrivner is serving a 30-year sentence in California, essentially for refusing to testify against her no-good husband.
He was a mid-level drug dealer. She had sold only a few ounces of meth at his behest. But prosecutors saddled her with a conspiracy charge to compel testimony. She wouldn’t. The judge in the case lamented that, given the sentencing guidelines, 30 years was the best he could do.
“She was 27 years old when she started serving a 30-year sentence in federal prison… Now, 20 years later, she feels like she’s still living in the early ’90s — she’s never seen or touched a cellphone, she still listens to her favorite band, the Scorpions, and she carefully coats her eyelids in electric blue eye shadow in the morning,” reports Yahoo News.
Scrivner petitioned President George W. Bush for clemency and was denied. When President Barack Obama was elected with his talk of reform and fairness-in-sentencing, she thought she’d have a good chance at commutation.
Yet, Yahoo’s Liz Goodwin explains, when it came to presidential pardons and commutations, “Obama was incredibly stingy in his first term.” Scrivner received a clemency rejection letter in 2011. After which, she tried to kill herself.
But things may be looking up for her and for many other people serving unnecessarily long sentences because of mandatory minimums.
Last week, Obama commuted the sentence of a man who was set to serve an extra three-and-a-half years because of a sentencing guideline typo in a drug case.
This week brings news from the White House and the Justice Department that the president is gearing up to give his pardon power, which Yahoo reminds us is “his only unfettered presidential power,” a workout.
The Justice Department is reportedly set to deep six its clemency-denying pardon attorney and take up “Clemency Project 2014” which could set hundreds or even thousands of inmates who are serving sentences that would not be meted out today free.
Scrivner would be a model candidate for this initiative. The judge and prosecutor’s office in her case “say she has served enough time,” reports Goodwin.
The former junkie worked through issues of child abuse in jail and helped to counsel other prison inmates through withdrawals. She has earned most of a degree in biblical studies.
“I believe in God,” Scrivner told Yahoo News, though she admitted, “I’m really mad with him.” After all, her daughter Alannah was only two when she went to prison. She has missed most of her daughter’s life and never been able to hold her grandson as a free woman.
A minor judicial miracle just might change that.