KINGFISHER - The four reasons Patricia Spottedcrow most wanted out of prison were back in her arms Thursday afternoon, after their mother was released on parole.
Her children are 11, 6, 5 and 3 years old now. The youngest was just 1 when Spottedcrow began her prison sentence two years ago.
If Gov. Mary Fallin hadn't approved Spottedcrow's parole and if the Pardon and Parole Board hadn't agreed to early consideration for her case, her children might have all been teenagers by the time she got out.
Spottedcrow was released from Hillside Community Corrections Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday morning after completing a community-level sentence required by the governor as a condition of her parole.
Her 12-year prison sentence for selling $31 worth of marijuana garnered widespread national attention after her story was featured in a 2011 Tulsa World series on women in prison.
Spottedcrow originally faced a 12-year prison sentence out of Kingfisher County for selling a "dime bag" of marijuana to a police informant. She entered prison in December 2010 after spending a few months waiting in the county jail.
After her story was published in the World, grassroots supporters lobbied officials to reconsider Spottedcrow's punishment. Advocates expressed concern for possible racial bias, disparate sentences for drug crimes, Oklahoma's No. 1 female incarceration rate per capita and the effects on children growing up with incarcerated parents.
Spottedcrow missed so much of her children's lives during her two years in prison: potty training her youngest, first words, first days of school, soccer games, birthdays and Christmas holidays.
She wants to make up for lost time and give her mother, Delita Starr, a break from raising Spottedcrow's children in her absence, she said.
"Being away from my kids, that was enough for me to know I wanted to change my life," she said.
Laura Deskin, Spottedcrow's attorney, said she first heard about her client's case through another attorney and was "absolutely shocked" at what had happened in Oklahoma's legal system.
Because children were in Spottedcrow's home when she was arrested, a charge of possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor was added. Starr was also charged with the crime but was given a 30-year suspended sentence so she could care for Spottedcrow's children while their mother was incarcerated.
Now, Deskin said she plans to focus on post-conviction relief for Spottedcrow and the possibility of modification for the 30-year suspended sentence Starr received for her role in the crime.
On the morning Spottedcrow was released, it took less than 20 minutes for her to walk free.
She had to call a friend to pick her up. Her mother hadn't even arrived from Kingfisher when corrections guards asked Spottedcrow to leave the prison's grounds.
A friend drove her to a nearby pharmacy parking lot. There she would reunite with her mother, Deskin, and Brenda Golden, an activist who lobbied for Spottedcrow's sentence to be reviewed after seeing her story in the World.
Her reunion with all four children had to wait until the school bus arrived back in Kingfisher. Starr didn't want to ruin their perfect attendance records, she said.
Tears streamed down her son Koby's face as his younger sisters stared in disbelief to see their mom waiting as they walked off the bus.
Inside, as they hugged on the couch, her youngest, Ja'zalynn, climbed from big brother's lap into her mom's arms.
"Wrap me up," Ja'zalynn said.
"I'm going to wrap you all up," Spottedcrow said.
Case of Patricia Spottedcrow
In its award-winning "Women in Prison" series last year, the Tulsa World first wrote about the case of Patricia Spottedcrow, a young mother of four. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison in October 2010 after selling $31 worth of marijuana to an informant. Last year, a Kingfisher County judge took four years off her sentence, and in April, the Pardon and Parole Board recommended she be paroled. Gov. Mary Fallin agreed but required her to spend 120 days in a work-release program at a community corrections facility first. Spottedcrow was released from prison Thursday after serving about two years in prison.
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
firstname.lastname@example.org SUBHEAD: She leaves prison, returns to her children
Original Print Headline: Spottedcrow released