The prison system in this country is ineffective and in the vast majority of cases does much more harm than good. I should know. My name is Gloria Allen, and I make a living as a high-powered criminal attorney. Now, I’m going to give you proof of my assertion, and tell you perhaps the saddest case of my long and successful career.
This is the story of Roxanne “Roxy" Drake, a 20 tear-old beautiful, intelligent and talented, but self-admitted “wild child." Her father is the famous Hollywood power-broker Pete Drake, but Roxy lives in ritzy North Topsail Beach North Carolina, with her mother, famous actress from the 90’s Linda Hart.
My first dealings with Roxy came when she was 17. She had been arrested for getting in a fight at school with the class president and star volleyball player Mena Milano. Roxy seriously injured Mena’s knee, which brought her athletic scholarship to Duke at an end. The local prosecutor charged Roxy with felonious assault, and it looked like her home would be reform school until her 21st birthday. Pete paid me six figures to fly to NC and try to get her out of it.
Roxy was no ordinary teen. She was a brilliant pianist, and at one point was being groomed for a career in the concert halls. She also had a genius IQ and was quite attractive…..tall, full figured with long jet black hair and eyes. But at 15 she started showing a major rebellious streak, and fully embraced the “goth" lifestyle. She dressed in black leather, wore pasty makeup and with her size looked downright scary to those that didn’t know her. She was in charge of a gang of fellow “goth girls" who clung to her every word and move. She never had a boyfriend, and people suspected she might be a lesbian, but she never came out.
She was out on juvenile bail when we first sat down. She was cocky, but smart and told me what happened. “Mena has a gang of all the cool girls in school, and the bad ones flock to me. We have a natural rivalry, and our guidance counselor made us sit in a room together and try to come to an agreement so our gangs wouldn’t fight each other in school. Mena…the Suzy Cream Cheese good girl…tried to come on to me when we were alone. I told her I wasn’t a lesbian, and kicked her ass. She’s saying now she needs knee surgery and I ruined her scholarship. Can you get me out of it, Gloria?"
I told her I’d try. At trial, I had to paint the victim as a villain (which I hate to do) and brought out her lesbian advance towards Roxy. Mena denied it, but the damage was done. Roxy got probation for simple assault, and Mena was the new laughing stock at school.
Two and ½ years passed, when out of the blue I got a call from Roxy. She was in a county jail in NC, charged with drug trafficking. She said her parents wouldn’t help her this time, and asked me if I would take the case. I agreed, but knew I would probably never get paid. I caught the next jet for NC.
I went to the local jail and saw Roxy. Even while wearing an orange jumpsuit in jail, she managed to “Goth it up" with makeup smuggled in by her friends. I looked over her case file, and realized she was screwed. She sold LSD and bath salts to a DEA agent friend of mine named Jamie Lynn Hathaway….I called her “Charlize" because of her striking resemblance to Charlize Theron.
I knew Jamie Lynn had Roxy cold….she was that kind of cop. I went to see her to talk over the case. Like me, Jamie Lynn was gay, but didn’t advertise it. Roxy was facing a mandatory 6 years in North Carolina Correctional Institution forWomen, and I appealed to Jamie Lynn. “Roxy’s just a mixed up kid. She’s a lesbian, but won’t admit it. You know what will happen to a good looking pampered kid like that with those unsupervised animals in NCCIW! Can’t you recommend to the judge a term in Boot Camp for her or something."
“Boot camp? Are you nuts?" she asked. “That’s only for 8 months! This is 6 years mandatory hard time!" she said.
“Unless you recommend leniency." I said. “I’ll owe you one, Jamie Lynn." She finally relented, and I took her out for a nice dinner and some “alone time" afterwards. I was good at my job!
I went to the jail the next day and told Roxy. I made her lose the makeup and put $40 in another inmate I knew named Amanda’s commissary account and told her to make Roxy presentable in court tomorrow.
I had a deal with the prosecutor and judge, and everything looked good in court. Roxy was brought in and looked like a sweet young woman who might play a recital in a concert hall. Then trouble came just as the bailiff called the court to session. Roxy’s gang of young female Goth ruffians came in en masse, being loud and disruptive.
When the bailiff told Roxy to rise and plead, the girls started clapping and cheering…and the judge was not happy. She was old school, and immediately had security clear the court. She then accepted Roxy’s guilty plea and pronounced sentence…one I never saw coming.
“Roxanne Aurora Drake, having pleaded guilty two 2 counts of Aggravated Drug Trafficking, I herby sentence you to the term of imprisonment prescribed by law….six years confinement in the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women." I was flabbergasted, and immediately reminded the judge that we had a plea deal.
“I am aware of that." The judge said. “I will honor the plea agreement, and sentence the defendant to 8 months incarceration at the State Boot Camp for Women at Smithfield. Upon successful completion of the 8 month program, I will suspend the remainder of the six year sentence and place her on parole for that period of time." She said and banged the gavel. I was very relieved….Roxy could avoid NCCIW if she could keep her nose clean for a mere 8 months. Roxy hugged me and I told her “Just do the 8 months and it’s over." She was shackled and cuffed and led away. Out in the hall, her Goth friends cheered when she was led by, saying things like “Don’t let them break you, Roxy!", “Make us proud,", “Show these bitches how to do time" and other negative messages meant to be positive. Roxy, cocky as ever smiled and made the gang sign to them with her cuffed hands.
The next day I drove to the Boot Camp….just to make sure Roxy got off on the right foot. The warden, a former Marine captain named Diane Fuller, invited me to stay and watch Roxy’s induction. She was strip searched and put in the Boot Camp uniform of a bright red jumpsuit and red canvas sneakers. Then she was escorted to the barber chair, and her long black “Goth" hair was cut off with barber shears by a guard. Next she took electric clippers and buzzed the rest of poor Roxy’s hair off, right to the scalp. Roxy scowled throughout. A red baseball cap with the word “INMATE" stenciled on the front was then placed on her freshly close-clipped scalp. Roxy then joined the group of the other inmates, all with close-cropped hair too. I asked Fuller why she cut their hair like that and she said “It’s cool and very low maintenance…just what inmates working in the hot sun all day need."
Warden Fuller assured me that 8 months of tough love, hard labor and discipline was just what Roxy needed, and said “We’ll turn her into a law-abiding, productive member of society." I had my doubts, but hoped she was right!
I monitored Roxy’s progress over the next 8 months and observed an amazing transformation. The military style discipline the Boot Camp required of her had a very positive influence indeed on this spoiled bad girl. The daily calisthenics regimen and the hard labor work assignment in the blazing North Carolina sun (she spent most of the sentence hand digging a 2 mile long ditch for a waterline to a proposed second facility at the far end of the boot camp property) had made her body strong. She was already a good looking young lady, but now her body was good enough to try a modeling career once her hair grew back.
A week before she was scheduled for release I went to visit her. It was obvious from talking to her that she was ready to put her youthful indiscretions behind her and move on with her life. Her new attitude seemed totally genuine. She had cut off all contact with her former gang members, returning their letters unopened and refusing to see them when they came to visit her. I was extremely proud, because I had helped prevent a talented but troubled young woman from heading down the path of becoming a hardened criminal.
Or so I thought. On the day before her release, Warden Fuller called me and informed that a homemade prison shank and illegal prescription pain pills were found hidden in Roxy’s lockbox. Two other inmates made sworn affidavits that Roxy had sold them pills for the last several months. Roxanne Aurora Drake had sure pulled the wool over my eyes.
The judge immediately reinstated Roxy’s remaining 5 year, 4 month sentence and remanded her to the custody of the dreaded North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, giving her no chance of early parole. I always wondered what happened to her to make her fall back into her criminal lifestyle, but I had too many other cases to deal with to look into it.
You may be wondering why I said this was perhaps the saddest case in my legal career, and why it’s a devastating indictment of the prison system.
Three years after Roxy was sent to NCCIW, her name came up in another case. Lissette Francois, a 19 year old girl had just been released from the prison after serving a year for a DUI accident. She wanted to sue the state prison system and one inmate in particular who had brutalized, raped and sexually molested her during her entire prison sentence. She had made complaints to the prison staff all along as the assaults were occurring, and still had injuries, so I knew it was a good case and took it.
Who was the sexually deviant predatory prison rapist that had done these horrible acts to her? None other than inmate Roxanne Aurora Drake, whom Lissette described as the unchallenged “queen bee" among the 2000 plus women confined at NCCIW!
I did a lot of research, and reviewed lots of prison surveillance video. They showed Roxy, now with her head totally shaved bald by choice, directing a gang of hardened criminals who seemed to cling to her every word. Several of her henchwomen were also shaved bald, and I recognized two of them as her former “Goth gang girls"…now prison inmates themselves. How could the young woman who had seemed to have turned her life around just three years earlier become this monster?
I came to the prison and deposed Roxy about the incidents. She never admitted to raping Lissette, but several other inmates claimed to have seen it happen. Roxy had become the scariest, most hardened criminal female I had ever seen…and I’ve seen a lot of them!
After the deposition, I had a private conversation with her. She said she had in fact benefited from the Boot Camp experience and was ready to turn her life around. She swore she never sold drugs there, and that the shank and pills had been planted to frame her.
She told me that shortly after being sent to prison, she talked to another inmate who had been kicked out the Boot Camp program a month after Roxy. “She told me everybody knew the new guard set me up on a “bum beef." Roxy said. “I was so excited about getting released I never even knew there was a new guard so I asked her who it was. When she said “Some uppity bitch named Mena Milano" I just lost it. This prison is so bad, and I still had 5 years to do, and just said fuck it. I started shaving my head to look tougher and kicked a lot of asses in here. I worked hard and now I run the joint."
As I was leaving, she stopped me and said “You tried your best to help me Gloria and I appreciate it. But as long as this prison system is so harsh and corrupt, you’ll never be able to help anyone. But thanks for trying. Tell Lissette I’m sorry, but it’s a jungle in here."
It’s moments like this that makes me wish I’d gone to medical school instead of law school.
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