Sharanda Jones is a 47-year old African American woman who entered the Bureau of Prisons at the age of 32. This case being her first criminal conviction – felony or otherwise – she has spent over 15 years in prison on a single drug episode. There is no chance of parole in the federal prison system so Sharanda has no release date and is set to serve a natural life sentence.
Despite knowing she may never be released from prison due to her natural life sentence, Sharanda is not bitter. Indeed, since her incarceration she has taken several of the classes offered by the Bureau of Prisons related to personal development and self-improvement. For example, she completed courses regarding self-esteem, transitioning, and healthy lifestyles, along with parenting courses. Determined to help prevent the younger generation from following in her footsteps, Sharanda also actively participated in the SHARE Program, a program for at-risk teen-aged girls aimed at deterring them from a life of crime.
She is currently participating in an 18-month faith based program call Life Connection. Only five federal prisons across the country host this unique program. The program has a strict curriculum and limited space. Initially, the program targeted female inmates who are within 24-120 months of their projected release date. However, in 2012 the Life Connection Program was expanded and offered to inmates with life sentences. Sharanda was able to be recommended for the program due to her model inmate status. While in this program Sharanda has completed community service, participated in activities to help bring reconciliation to the community and established re-entry goals and action steps. With a life sentence, Sharanda cannot be certain that she will ever get a chance to prove to society that she can reach her re-entry goals but she still eagerly participates in the program. Participants in the Life Connection Program have no extra incentive to participate – other than a personal desire to change and grow. This speaks volumes of Sharanda's resilient character and her unwavering faith that the justice system will not let her die in prison as a first-time non-violent offender.
In addition, Sharanda has completed dozens of courses to enhance her education, including but not limited to: a five-month office technician program, basic math, grammar, several keyboarding and data entry courses, and banking and filing classes.
Upon her commitment to the Bureau of Prisons in 1999, Sharanda was a licensed Cosmetologist. Eager to continue in a field that she loved as well as assist other inmates with an interest in cosmetology, Sharanda decided to take her career further and completed a 6-month Cosmetologist Instructors Program through a partnership between the Bureau of Prisons and a cosmetology school. This accomplishment facilitated Sharanda in helping train numerous inmates who subsequently obtained their Cosmetology licenses. Moreover, Sharanda continues to take continuing education courses in Cosmetology.
Sharanda has maintained continuous employment during the time of her incarceration. Her prior assignments include Unit Orderly, Food Service, and Laundry Orderly. Sharanda is currently assigned to Hair Care. Commendably, she has maintained her current job for over ten years and earns good to outstanding work performance evaluations. Her duties include supervising a small group of women to handle overflow when the cosmetology students face difficulties. She is responsible for hair maintenance for the Maximum Unit, where the inmates are not allowed out, and the Hospital Unit, where the inmates are too ill to physically go to the prison salon for hair maintenance.
Most notably, since her incarceration Sharanda has committed only one disciplinary violation dated over ten years ago. One of Sharanda's visitors was in a verbal altercation with an officer regarding coins that were lost in the vending machine. Although, Sharanda was not directly involved in the incident, she was punished with a 30-day loss of visitation privileges. Other than this single occurrence in 2003, Sharanda has maintained a spotless disciplinary record.
Determined not to let her current natural life sentence establish her fate, Sharanda has maintained a positive attitude and has been working meticulously on personal growth and development for herself as well as that of fellow inmates. Sharanda has been on a self-improvement track since the beginning of her incarceration over 15 years ago in 1999. If ever released Sharanda desires to work with children and adults to lecture them on the problems of drugs and crime. Sharanda believes she is uniquely qualified for this mission and believes that children and adults will listen to someone who has experienced the life she has in the Bureau of Prisons and suffered immensely, along with her family and daughter, from her conviction.
Before incarceration, Sharanda played a major role in the life of her now 23-year-old daughter, Clenesha. She speaks with her daughter over the telephone almost daily and regularly corresponds with her through letters and visits. Nevertheless, Sharanda eagerly hopes to be released soon in order to resume an active physical presence in Clenesha's life to strengthen the invaluable mother-daughter bond and to instill in her a sense of hope for the future. Furthermore, Sharanda's family and friends provide a strong, faith-based support system. The support and faith from her family and friends contribute to the guiding forces that empower Sharanda to continue on her positive track.
Sharanda has more than paid the price for the crime in which she was convicted. She accepts full responsibility for her actions and neither poses a significant public safety risk nor is she among the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system. Sharanda is just a woman who wants to go home to be with her daughter and be a productive member of society. The rest of her natural life should not be wasted in a federal prison.