Her first meal as a free person was at IHOP.
Ramona Brant, 52, was convicted in 1995 of conspiracy to sell cocaine and sentenced to life without parole after she was caught in a drug-ring bust in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her involvement was minor and, she says, coerced by her boyfriend, who was a drug dealer and abusive. Now, 21 years later, President Obama has given her a clemency, and she was released from prison. On a cold street before dawn on February 2, members of her family and friends came to greet her outside Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison in Brooklyn.
Beaming, Brant hugged her nieces, sister, and best friend from high school. Speechless at first, she composed herself and spoke to reporters. “There’s so many women, so many women that are locked up inside that I think society is not aware of. They need to be given the attention, given the stage, and let their stories be told,” she said. “Most of us were incarcerated because of a man … I’m not saying that all men are horrible, it’s just a mere fact.”
According to the Sentencing Project, a prison reform organization, the number of women in prison increased by 646 percent between 1980 and 2010, rising from 15,118 to 112,797.
Brant’s next step is to return to Charlotte, where she will live in a halfway house for two months, and where she can see her two sons for the first time in two decades. “I’m not necessarily putting this behind me,” she said. After her halfway house period, she hopes to get a job at a church or a women’s prison rights organization. “I hope that I have the opportunity to take this and be the voice for a lot of women.”
Her first meal as a free person was at IHOP—grits, pancakes, eggs. “This is a very unhealthy breakfast,” she said. “But it’s very good.”
Brant is one of 95 federal inmates, most of them nonviolent drug offenders, whose sentences were commuted by Obama in December.