Ginnie Graham: Telling Patricia Spottedcrow's story
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
12/05/12 at 9:02 AM
Learn more about the incarceration of women: Read previous stories, find resources and see graphics regarding women in prison.Original Print Headline: Prison series sparks curiosity
Meeting Patricia Spottedcrow two years ago was by chance.
Her release from prison last week was from public support that began with a Tulsa World profile, part of a series examining Oklahoma's No. 1 ranking in the female incarceration rate.
I've been asked several times how I found her. A few have argued her case must be an anomaly.
Tall tale: Part of my assignment was to write about life behind bars.
For the story, I asked to interview a first-time offender on the day she enters the Eddie Warrior women's prison.
A prison official narrowed down possible dates, and I randomly selected one.
Before arriving in Taft, I had basic information - Kingfisher County felony convictions for distribution and possession of drugs.
Spottedcrow exited the bus in chains and didn't say a word as guards ran down the list of procedures.
Throughout the day, she kept to herself. Even when struggling to get her prison-issued bedroll to her bunk, she never asked for help.
She had no swagger, no bravado, no anger.
When speaking of her crime, her story was unbelievable. Literally.
I was dubious she only sold $31 in marijuana to an undercover informant and received 12 years on that first offense.
Her mother was arrested for the same offense but received a suspended sentence.
Having heard many half-truths from convicted felons, I let her talk, knowing court documents may tell a different version.
She was confused about some legal aspects but seemed to accept the sentence. She never spoke about appeals.
Global attention: The courthouse file verified her account.
To the credit of the late associate district judge Susie Pritchett, she was up front about being fed up with drug use and was appalled the two sold pot with children in the home.
District Attorney Mike Fields, elected after Spottedcrow's blind plea, said there were no community sentencing options at that time and rehabilitation programs are scarce in rural areas.
A visit to the home of Spottedcrow's mother showed an overwhelmed grandmother, struggling with no transportation, bad health and a low-wage job at a convenience store.
The next associate district judge, Robert Davis avoided calls but knocked off four years in a written order.
Spottedcrow's story gained worldwide attention. Some were drawn to the issue of drug laws or sentence equity for racial minorities.
Some just didn't like using prison space for a crime that in places like California results in a fine. Marijuana is no longer illegal in Colorado and Washington.
Expediting her early release was the state's Pardon and Parole Board, with approval from Gov. Mary Fallin.
Road ahead: Oklahoma taxpayers spent about $30,000 keeping Spottedcrow behind bars. That does not include the welfare assistance for her four young children.
She has a rough road ahead - a felony conviction, spotty work experience, basic education, court debt and single parent to four children ages 11 and younger.
Two days after her release, the Tulsa World ran a front-page story stating Oklahoma is officially out of room at female prisons.
Projections show the state's prisons will receive more women this year than last year but will release fewer inmates.
With numbers like those, it is unlikely Spottedcrow was an oddity.