Last week, one week past her 31st birthday, civil rights activist Catrina Wallace was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. This was first arrest for Wallace, a single mother who became politically active when her brother was arrested in the case that later became known as the "Jena Six."
On March 31, a 12-person jury with one Black member convicted Wallace of three counts of distribution of a controlled substance. At her June 1 sentencing, Wallace received 5 years for each count, to be served consecutively. Even in Louisiana, the incarceration capitol of the US, fifteen years for a first offense is somewhat exceptional. However, vast discrepancies exist across parishes. For example, an Orleans Parish man recently received probation for selling pot. Then, when arrested for the same offense a few miles away in St. Tammany Parish, he was sentenced to life in prison.
"Unfortunately, I'm not shocked by the sentence," commented Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We used to use prisons for the people who really caused problems, and made us concerned about public safety. Now we use them for the people we're mad at."
Photo: Catrina Wallace, right, with Caseptla Bailey.