Women of Color and their Allies Summit

Did you know making a phone call can land you in prison for ten years? Well, when the person on the other end happens to be a DEA agent tapping your conversation, it is a reality. Just ask Alfreda Robinson who has first hand experience on the trappings of the DEA and the injustice of the criminal justice system.

I attended the NOW Women of Color and their Allies Summit, April 1-3, 2005 in Arlington, VA. One of the workshops, "Race, Gender, & Surveillance: The War on Drugs," had a tremendous impact on me. One of the keynote speakers, Alfreda Robinson, Executive Director, National Womenís Prison Project, Inc., Baltimore, MD, told of her personal experience. She was an educated, hard working, single mom. Her son had been dealing drugs for some time and despite all of her pleading nothing seemed to change his behavior. One day this lifestyle caught up with him and he was arrested (currently serving a 45 year sentence). While awaiting trial, he phoned her and asked her to call a friend who owed him money so that he could be bailed out. She decided after some strong hesitation to make the call. This young manís mother stated her son may have money owed him but she was very suspicious (while knowing she may be working with the DEA). She gave her personal information including her work/home number, and where she lived. They eventually agreed to meet so that she could give her the money. The phone had been tapped and she was later arrested for conspiracy. She was charged with a two-count federal indictment and sentenced to ten years for making a phone call!

While in prison she received paralegal certification through a correspondence course. Upon her release Ms. Robinson has dedicated her time, energy and resources towards improving the lives of prisoners returning into the community. Since coming home in 2001, she has helped found, build and staff a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to reforming Marylandís criminal justice system through the Maryland Justice Coalition. She is also the Founder and Director of the National Womenís Prison Project, which provides physical, mental and spiritual support to women returning home from prison. If you would like more information, please visit: www.nationalwomensprisonproject.org.

Ms. Robinson could have easily just given in and become another "victim of the system." Instead she persevered by taking a negative and turning it into a positive. Despite the injustice bestowed upon her, Alfreda became a role model as she lobbied and inspired others to fight against the injustice of the system.

By Namorya S. Nelson
PRA Office Manager/Bookkeeper

Ed. Note: PRA staff regularly attend events sponsored by our stakeholders, including progressives organizing for social change. We can learn about current trends and take the opportunity to share our resources.

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