Senator Grassley my Possible Obsession
My admiration for Senator Chuck Grassley took hold as I watched him as Chief of the Senate Judiciary Committee fight hard to get the First Step Act Passed. The First Step Act is the first prison reform bill in ten-years. It was signed into law on December 21, 2018.
I had never been particularly interested in politics until I became a fierce advocate for criminal justice reform. I was like most Americans in believing we had a fair justice system. I witnessed my husband signing a plea agreement that contained charges which he was not guilty. These charges added an extra two-years to his sentence. My husband wanted to go to trial over the charges for which he was not guilty, but his lawyer advised him if he did not take the plea, he would never win at trial, and he would be looking at an extra ten years versus two years.
The whole extra two-years did not sit well with me; I genuinely thought it was a huge mistake that could be fixed. After my husband reported to Federal Prison on July 5, 2016, I began researching his case and how we could fix the error in him serving time for a crime he did not commit. While performing this research, I discovered my husband is not unique, and this is the norm. I learned that Federal Prosecutors have a 96% conviction rate, which is not due to truth, evidence, or facts; it is because of strong-arming and threatening the defendant with an even longer sentence if they do not sign a plea agreement.
During this same time of performing research, I came upon FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) I had no clue what was a mandatory minimum. Still, I became educated very quickly on how very unjust is our "justice" system. I was almost inconsolable as I read the stories on the FAMM website of the men and women serving 15, 25, 40 years in prison, and even LIFE in prison as a non-violent drug offender. I vowed right then and there to be a voice for these men and women and to help make our unjust system just.
I was a novice in this world of reform, but FAMM took me and many others under their wing and showed us how to effectively use our voices and experiences to be heard and affect change.
I watched in Awe and wanted to emulate the Jessica Jacksons, Van Jones, and Kevin Rings of the world and many more as they fought with such courage and tenacity in getting the First Step Act passed.
I am not going to lie; I became a little star-struck with Senator Grassley. I knew he was a man of the people watching him with his grit fight to get this bill passed. He is a true representative of the people. In some way, it made me feel comforted that someone of his honor, integrity, and common sense was looking out for the citizens of the United States of America.
I wrote to Senator Grassley in January of 2019, asking if I could meet him. In my request, I relayed the story of me being a seventeen-year-old girl who ran away from home and ran out of money in Des Moines, Iowa, and it was because of the kindness of Iowans that I survived and prevailed. I could not describe my excitement when I received a response from Jennifer Senator Grassley's Director of Scheduling, asking me for dates to visit Senator Grassley.
On February 11, 2019, I entered the Senate Hart Building thinking to myself, " I didn't know I couldn't, so I did." kind of a Forrest Gump moment. I chatted with one of the Senator's Aides for a bit until Senator Grassley entered I swear there was a glowing light around this man. I had butterflies in my belly like a giddy school girl. Senator Grassley treated me like I was as important as anyone he has ever met within his 38 years as a Senator. He was kind and genuine in asking about myself, my husband, and my non-profit A Day Closer. Senator Grassley left a mark in my world.
Today I believe his kind scheduler Jennifer wishes I would go away. I have probably in their world gone from admirer to crazy obsessed stalker. I have reached our for help with medical neglect within the BOP, shared Andre Cooper's story ( Juvenile lifer I am advocating for) and my husband's compassionate release. Senator Grassley is a man of and for the people. He will listen; it does not always mean he can take action, but it is filed away, for maybe later date.