By Trevor Reese, Staff Writer –
On Feb. 9 a woman who was once sentenced to life in prison spoke to a group of community members, students and faculty and staff about her journey from incarceration to freedom.
Ramona Brant spent 21 years in prison serving a life sentence for non-violent drug
charges until she was granted clemency by President Obama in 2015. At the event, which was a part of Black History Month, she spoke to students about her personal story, poor conditions in modern prisons and the problems of the judicial system that led to her receiving such a harsh sentence.
“It’s hard to comprehend being sentenced to a word rather than a number. When you
have a number you have a calendar. You cross off those days. You count off those months. You count off those years,” said Brant.
A reality that Brant discovered while she was serving time is how reliant inmates are
on receiving money for basic necessities and keeping up with their loved ones on the outside.
“The families are already burdened with the fact that you’re incarcerated, and now there’s another burden of trying to ensure that you keep that bond with your children,” she said. “And often times it is lost.”
Brant also stated that because the privatizations of prisons women are being
incarcerated at an alarmingly higher rate, this only worsens conditions on the inside.
“There are times that they side to bring in so many women that they close down laundry rooms. They close down auditoriums, and they pack us in their like sardines.” On top of this she said the physical and sexual abuse by male guards is still an everyday issue in female prisons.
Through work of multiple clemency organizations and President Obama’s 2014
Clemency Initiative, Ramona was told by prison officials that she was to be released. “It took some time to really process that this was the moment I had been waiting for 21 years,” she said.
After being released she was invited to lunch with then President Obama to talk about her story and how the problems that caused her unjust sentencing could be changed.
Throughout her time in prison she credited her faith in God as what kept her
hope alive. Brant said she never believed that she would die in prison, and she often studied the biblical story of Joseph to keep her spirit strong.
“I saw that there was a lot of depression. There was a lot of suicide attempts, and I thank God for keeping me sane; for putting me in a position to help other women.”
Ramona Brant now works in human resources for the city of Charlotte, N.C. and is a
prominent advocate for services for the formerly incarcerated and changing conditions inside prisons.