In honor of justice and all that is right, we bring you Evelyn, the next highlight in our ILLICIT Freedoms Campaign, which plans to surface the silenced stories of prisoners of the war on cannabis. Evelyn was torn from her 4-year-old daughter in Sacramento, California and found guilty by a jury of her peers in Charlotte, North Carolina; Convicted by a prosecutor who moved from Washington DC to North Carolina so he could have a “positive public view.”
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Evelyn was sentenced to 24 years in a federal prison for depositing less than 1% of a bi-state cannabis operation’s profits into her bank account.
While the attitude toward cannabis in California was positive, the receiving state of the operation didn’t feel the same. She was charged with Conspiracy to Distribute with the intent to sell marijuana.
Federal drug conspiracy charges for more than 100kg of marijuana carries a maximum sentence of 40 years and up to 5 million dollars in fines.
After trial, her new attorney discovered that testimonies given by other co-conspirators in the case were flat out lies and hooked Evelyn up to a lie detector to prove it. The prosecution came back with an offer, if she waived all her rights to an appeal, they would recommend she receives 8 years sentencing.
Evelyn had a decision to make, accept the 8 years away from her tight-knit family, missing her 4-year-old daughter grow or try and fight for 24 years from jail. "My daughter is either gonna be 28 years old when I get out of prison or 12. I call that blackmail. I signed the appeal."
In Federal Blackmail Law, it is illegal to “threat to report, or testify against, a person for any violation of federal law, along with a demand for money or something else of value, is considered a federal crime.”
24 years in federal prison would have cost US taxpayers $939,792. Evelyn’s and her attorney’s fight saved US taxpayers from spending $881,947 on a cannabis conviction.
I’ve got documents on my desk that say “United States of America VS. Evelyn LaChapelle”
Click the link in bio to hear the full story from @87months herself. Next week, read about the county jail that held her. @87months would like to shout out that 40,000 Inmates remain in prison for this plant and Parker Coleman, currently serving a 60-year sentence for a nonviolent marijuana offense, is one of them.
"Staring at my peep toe shoes, I cannot get the thought out of stabbing myself in the neck with my very own heel,"
said Evelyn about her first moments of incarceration after being found guilty in Charlotte, North Carolina.A resident incarcerated in a North Carolina jail is 15 TIMES more likely to die from suicide than a free resident. From 2013 to 2016, suicide was the leading cause of death in North Carolina’s jails, accounting for 46% of the deaths in NC jails. That far exceeds the national average, which currently stands at 30% in local jails and 8% in state/federal prisons, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Two deputies usher me to a cell with a bunk but no mattress, just a metal bed frame." They handed Evelyn a turtle suit, made out of padding with long velcro strips, to put over her bare body. They took her to Suicide Watch commenting, “At least it’s a new suit, you’re lucky to have it.” Evelyn remembers, "It's cold and it's your first night in jail. If I had not thought about suicide beforehand, I absolutely would have at this point." She wakes up to Day 1 with scratches all along her elbows and kneecaps from trying to use the starchy new turtle suit as a blanket.
Evelyn was moved to a women's cell later that weekend as she began her sentence, "You're in the county jail for 23 months. We never went outside. There's no rain, no sun, no moon."
From 2017-2018, there were 20 suicides in North Carolina jails, 80% of which occurring within 12 days of admission. 95% had not been convicted and were being held in jail due to arrest or awaiting trial. In 2018, there were 5 suicides in Mecklenberg County Jail where Evelyn stayed and in 2021, it was deemed unsafe for staff, forcing them to release or transfer around 500 inmates.
"That whispered to my ear that I’m not good enough, I would never reclaim my life."
After being released from incarceration, Evelyn returned back home to California. She was hired nearly immediately as a Sales and Catering Coordinator, where she was required to complete a background check. There was no problem until a coworker searched Evelyn’s name online and took those findings to Human Resources. Evelyn was called into HR, asked to pack up her belongings, and leave the building. "That one hurt more than pissed me off, and I’m not easily hurt."
North Carolina offers services to aid justice-involved individuals in local, city or state reentry, but in 2015, nearly 30% (401 inmates) of the Mecklenburg county jail residents were being held for out-of-state prison, out-of-state jail or for federal agencies.
In fact, the U.S. Marshals Service pays as high as $160 per person per day in Mecklenburg to house state or federal detainees like Evelyn. Mecklenberg County Jail, where Evelyn was held for 23 months, houses more federal detainees than any other North Carolina county, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. A 2021 study from Disability Rights North Carolina found that jails were housing people for the state even while the jails were overcrowded.
"My daughter is either gonna be 28 years old when I get out or 12."
"My daughter is either gonna be 28 years old when I get out or 12." Evelyn had two choices: fight an unjust law or accept the guilty conviction for Marijuana Conspiracy and get home 16 years earlier. “The prosecution offered 8 years if I waived my rights to an appeal." Evelyn was ready to be home to continue raising her child, grieve her recently deceased mother and try to move forward with her life. She was eventually given 87 months in prison, just over 7 years.
A Federal Marijuana Conspiracy Charge carries a maximum sentence up to 40 years. Brock D. Nicholson, a special agent on Evelyn’s case boasted, "They will have many years in federal prison to contemplate the consequences of the bad choices they have made."
Evelyn says it's “that folks are not considering when you sentence someone to prison for a crime that is nonviolent, for a substance that is now considered globally essential during a pandemic, for a substance that is legal in more states than not, for something that is traded on the global stock exchange, for a plant that is creating generational wealth and that is bringing in millions in tax revenue--That I could sit in jail, not usher my stepmom into the afterlife, not be able to raise my own child, because I deposited those profits into my bank account.”
About 2.6 million U.S. children currently have a parent in jail or prison. By age 14, one in 14 U.S. children experiences a resident parent leaving for jail or prison. Behavior problems, mental health, and delinquency are some of the outcomes most commonly considered in research on children with incarcerated fathers and mothers. Studies on early childhood (from birth through age 5) have generally shown positive associations between paternal incarceration and children’s externalizing problems.
Evelyn blindly watched her child grow up and used all of her allowed 300 minutes per month in prison to talk with her family.
Evelyn was originally sentenced to 24 years in federal prison which would have cost US taxpayers $939,792. What it cost taxpayers to house Evelyn for 23 months in Mecklenberg County Jail and 40 months in a federal prison: $183,999.75. Evelyn and her attorney’s fight saved US taxpayers from spending $881,947 on a conspiracy cannabis conviction.