Close to his heart

Excerpts of March 23, 2000 testimony to the United States Sentencing Commission; As presented by William Boman

Good morning. My name is Bill Boman and I thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today about an issue that is close to my heart. Although I am no expert in sentencing matters, I am an expert in loving my family members, even the ones that make mistakes. I am here because of my niece, Terri Christine Taylor, who, at age 19, became entangled in a methamphetamine conspiracy that will eventually cost her 19 years and 7 months of her young life. I am here today because I believe her sentence is far too long for so little involvement. The sentencing guidelines you are charged to administer should be reformed so those low-level offenders like Chrissy are not sentenced to "kingpin" time.

After Chrissy's arrest, if I knew then what I know now about the justice system, I would have wanted Chrissy to plead guilty to the charges. How naive we were to think that the facts of her case would be considered! The prosecutor asked Chrissy to provide "substantial assistance" to the government for a sentence reduction, but she had no information to trade. I remember well my old confidence in the greatest justice system in the world, and my family felt secure that the punishment would fit the crime. After all, Chrissy needed a "wake up call".

I will never forget the day of her sentencing. I sat in court, surrounded by family while Chrissy stood before the judge and was sentenced to 19 years, 7 months in federal prison. The judge explained there was no parole, and that she would serve the full length of her sentence. It seemed like Chrissy shrunk before my eyes as I watched her being led away in leg irons and handcuffs. I thought I was dreaming, and then I thought I was having a heart attack. From that day I began to do everything I could to see that justice was served for Chrissy.

I tell you all of this because a substantial part of Chrissy's sentence is guideline time, but also because you have the power and the authority to shape our nation's discussion of sentencing. You have the ability to revive discussion of the problems created by mandatory sentences and their impact on sentencing guidelines. You have the power to refuse to implement politically expedient sentencing increases for methamphetamine and all other drug offenses. You have the power to declare a moratorium on sentence increases for drug offenses until the conflict between mandatory sentences and guidelines can be resolved. You can take the bull by the horns and foster real debate on these issues instead of silence.

The year 2000 marks Chrissy's tenth year in prison. In just a decade we have seen our world revolutionized by technology and improved by a booming economy. While we've been enjoying the fruits of prosperity, Chrissy has also seen the world change. She has watched the number of inmates double, triple and quadruple in her prison. She has seen Pell grants and educational programs eliminated. She has been stripped of the few 'perks' given to prisoners by Congress. She's seen prisoners lose all hope of reintegrating into society. We are a different country now, and Chrissy is a different person.

I, too, am a different person, and I now don't expect anyone to change Chrissy's situation. But I still believe that the universe is on the side of justice, and that we can change our system. You are new Commissioners, and as such, sentencing policy is your problem and opportunity. I urge you to leave your mark on the administration of justice by becoming the most vocal and active Sentencing Commission in the history of the United States. Thank you for your time.

Bill Boman leads a chapter of FAMM and distributes November Coalition literature in his community.