Nerika Jenkins -- 04757-053

20 Years -- Crack Cocaine Conspiracy

Nerika Jenkins, prisoner of the drug war
Prior to September 1996 I was living a normal life, working for two health care agencies and attending Suffolk Community College in Brentwood, New York until one day, when DEA followed me to school, identified themselves and arrested me on the college grounds. After my arrest, I was let out on bond, continued working and attending school, successfully receiving my Associates in Science on June 1, 1997.

The trial was held in the Western District of Virginia and in July of 1997, after two days of deliberation I and two co-defendants were found guilty. On October 27, 1997, I was sentenced by the same senior judge who sat in during trial. My case consisted of 18 co-conspirators; 14 received plea bargains, and are home or close to it. My mandatory release date is October 2014, which means that I would have served 19 years, 6 months.

According to the government, I was the 'Ring Leader's' girlfriend. Due to my unwillingness to cooperate with the government officials, the prosecutor painted an image of me at trial as "Head Lieutenant" that controlled millions of dollars. Where's the money?

It is ironic that the government indicated that 'the master mind' of this whole conspiracy, my daughter's father, received a life sentence, but after appealing his sentence and winning, he will be home in 2003. Another girlfriend he had is home after almost 4 years served. She cooperated with the government by manipulating and fabricating evidence.

I was only guilty of being the mother of his child and being with him longer than his other girlfriend who testified to this fact. No evidence was presented at trial to prove my guilt besides the government witnesses testimony and two Western Union money receipts. I have filed almost every motion that was applicable and to no avail.

My mother and my step-father are both working middle class people. Although, separated they have collaborated and put out over $18,000 in legal fees. I'm at my last resort for justice and I'm hoping that by the grace of god the mandatory minimum guidelines will be modified in the near future. Change must take place within the judiciary system to help women in similar situations.

I'm presently incarcerated at the FCI in Danbury, Connecticut, where I've been for approximately four years. I have completed a number of college courses, graduating on May 16, 2001 and received a certificate for completing 30 credits in Legal Research and Business Applications. I have reflected on the choices that I made in the past and during my five years of incarceration. I've learned from my mistakes.

I'm a mother of a 10-year-old daughter whose named is Secoya. Secoya is presently with my mother Iralee, who is a single parent. My mother has been raising her since my incarceration.

I decided to do the paperwork and put in for a Clemency. Even though it may have been too late, I went ahead and did it anyway with the encouragement of my mother and a few inmates whom told me it's never too late. "Your paperwork may be one of the last he signs," the inmates said. "Nothing beats a try but a failure." I received a response from the pardon attorney telling me my clemency was denied on March 26, 2002.

I'm not the only that is dealing with this current situation - more than 80% of the women incarcerated are here because of their boyfriends. The majority of the women played a minor role in the offense and received the same amount of time as myself, with some receiving more. I pray that with our new President in office, he will make some changes in the judiciary system starting with the mandatory minimum sentence. The sentencing guidelines are just too harsh for minor participants, and a change must come.

Nerika was released in Summer 2008 due to the United States Sentencing Commission's crack sentence reform.