Iva Bonner -- #21126-009

15 Years -- Crack Conspiracy

Iva Bonner, prisoner of the drug war
I am a prisoner of the drug war. On November 17, 1997 I was sentenced to 188 months (over 15 years) in federal prison for Conspiracy and Intent to Deliver Crack Cocaine. On April 30, 1997 undercover agents at the Greyhound bus terminal in Little Rock, Arkansas approached my companion and me. We had traveled there from Los Angeles. They told us that they would have to search our bags because they have a pattern of people bringing drugs into their city. After searching our bags we were placed under arrest for holding packages of crack cocaine totaling 1.8 kilos. They then began to tell us that if we told them everything they wanted to know about the people we worked for, we would be given a light sentence or no sentence at all. The information we did give them, contrary to self-incrimination principles of law, was used against us in sentencing.

We were both under the influence when we arrived at the county jail and were advised by a public defender that if we supplied the detective with information he wanted we would receive a reduced sentence, when we were unable to, the prosecutor was not happy and prosecuted us to the fullest.

This entire incident drove my family into complete turmoil. You see, I was raised in a Christian family background. I attended college, graduated, got married, became a professional woman, housewife and mother. I am the mother of two fine boys ages 21 and 10. I was an active church member teaching Sunday school, B.T.U. and advisor of the Young Matron's society. I was a member of Eta Phi Beta Business and Professional Women's Sorority and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. where I was active with the R.I.F. (Reading Is Fundamental) program. I taught A.B.E. classes as well as tutored G.E.D. I was a VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) volunteer and active with UNCF (United Negro College Fund). I was also cited in the book of who's who among Black Women in America during the 1980s.

You see, about twelve years ago, I was introduced to drugs, and the moment changed my life drastically. Had I never been addicted to drugs I would never have been involved in this crime. Of course I regret what I have done, and these long months of prayer have really helped to get myself together. However, my family and I have no idea where to go from here.

While in the Pulaski County Jail, my two brothers sent $3,000 to an attorney they had only conversed with by phone because they both lived in different states. That attorney withdrew from the case three days before we went to court and never refunded the money. We were totally devastated because my family members are hardworking people, and they spent every penny of their savings to help me. We had nowhere to turn. The courts assigned a public defender. After much emotional stress and losing a "Motion to Suppress," I agreed to sign a plea agreement and plead guilty.

Now, here I am 42 months into my sentence without any answers. I have no idea as to whether I can appeal or file any motions. I have come to know the Bible very well and have faith that God will send someone across my path who will give me some good advice. I know that if I'm able to overcome this confinement, I will be able to caution the young as well as the old against getting involved with drugs for any reason. My sons are lost without me, and the rest of my family is miserable. They realize that drug addiction altered my ability to think rationally.

I'm still hoping that the courts will reevaluate me as a person and judge me for who I am completely, and not just the drug addict part of me who acted wrongly. I know that I can again be a law-abiding and desirable citizen people look upon with respect.