My name is Sonja. Allow me to begin by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to be heard
as this has been my prayer for the past thirteen years.
I am a 59 year old woman who has been caught in California's Three Strike Law. Many people
would say ' so what' as I am obviously not first time offender. I am however, a human being. A person who has for many years
made some wrong choices that have ultimately placed me in the position of being cast out by society as a 'pariah' - ' not
worthy' if correcting past behaviours or making amends to be able to rejoin society. I have been handed a virutal death sentence
for the crime of possessing four tenths of a gram of heroin inside my own home.
There was not harm to another person, no property theft or damage. My crime was against myself.
I am guilty of being a heroin addict. My addiction began at the age of thirteen and has robbed me of my identity as well as
my place in life itself. It has stolen family and friends and trampled my moral judgement and has led me on a path of loneliness,
despair and self destruction for forty years.
The road to finding oneself can be a lifetime journey especially when one is lost at such a young
age. Yes we all have stories ... I could blame a multitude of things for how I came to the point of my demise, a broken home,
parental alcoholism, being sexually abused and the most horrible feeling of never being worthy. The need to belong somewhere
even it it meant beloning to all of the wrong things. The struggle to regain one's worth can be and was ( or seemed to be)
a battle I was unable to conquer. Perhaps for the person I am now. I have regained family ties and more importantly I have
found what I have searched for my entire life - myself.
I am proud of who I am. I have spent the past several years learning that I am worthy as a human
being. I have been a mentor to many young women here in prison. I have taught a few to learn to read and write and have tried
to nurture them into finding the beauty and strength we all are capable of having. I have facilitated workshops for
Conflict Resolutions and have tutored women to help them obtain their GED so when they leave prison they are better prepared
to go out and become a better part of society and hopefully not end up like me, unable to return to society.
It is very true that I am not without fault as my record is long ranging from forgeries to robberies.
All of which occurred many years before Californias Three Strike Law existed. My last serious case was in 1978 when I drove
a getaway car. I spent several years in prison and upon release and failed relationships. I returned to my addicition. The
cycle not yet broken. In 1995 an ' un-named' informant told police I was dealing drugs and in exchange for their information
they avoided jail and my home was raided turning up the equivalent of two match heads of heroin. This informant was never
made to appear in court so that I could be allowed to face my accuser and I was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. I
am classified and house as if I was guilty of First Degree Murder and am serving a longer sentence than women found guilty
of killing their own children. I have been a model inmate for my entire incarceration. I am not a monster that needs to be
caged for the rest of my life. I am a human being who has made and paid for my past transgressions, searched for my true identity
and found it. I have paid my dues and work daily to give something back to those less fortunate than myself. I try to encourage
others to be strong and to keep having faith and to reach for the power each of us hold within ourselves, even on days when
I feel doomed within these walls. If I am to believe now, that I remain unworthy to rejoin society then perhaps society needs
to take a deeper look inside themselves and try to find some forgiveness.
It is with a humble heart that I thank you for this opportunity, to have my voice heard. In the
midst of so muchy hatred and moral judging of others I truly believe that healing can only happen if society as a whole, not
only helps it to hapen but allows it to happen.
California's Three Strike Law not only punishes offenders it also destroys families for generations.
It is take a village to raise a child what will it take to creat a society that dosent take human life and cage it for a minor
infraction. Isnt the idea of a village or society to teach a new way to those who have chosen the wrong path, to pull them
back and show them how to be better people. Mass incarceration does not allow healing for individuals, families or societies.
Sonja Marcus W-62810
Valley State Prison for Women
P.O. Box 92 D-1-12-02L
Cowchilla, Ca 93610-0092