This is the most difficult post I’ve written. At the “hearing” on March 2nd the judge who originally convicted and sentenced Drew stuck to his decision to send Drew to prison for 3 years with 47 years suspended. Many of you know the reality of what that actually means…a possible life sentence for someone with autism. And for what? Read the blog. And, if you feel outraged then please speak up, speak out and let your voice be heard that you are not okay with this injustice.
Why? Since March 2nd Drew attempted suicide in the jail. For this he was mistreated and punished. He was taken to another jail where we were told they are better at handling this kind of thing, whatever that means.
Our contact with Drew was minimal until recently. And after a recent call with the jail I was told that after my husband and I visited with him (through a thick glass window) that Drew was put back in suicide watch. I was told that our visit was too upsetting to him. Really? We are to blame? Really? That’s the problem?!?
I’m wondering if perhaps its because the jail took him abruptly off of all of his prescription medications, stripped him naked and left him in isolation for days without being able to contact his parents-despite him begging? All the while, we were trying to find out how he’s doing, where he is, what’s going on. And, we were told that they can’t give out that information because of HIPAA, and that Drew will call us when he wants to. We found out later from Drew that no-one ever told him we called, and that he had been begging to call his parents.
Drew had been told by someone from the jail staff not to worry me. Really? So, the jail doesn’t want me worried? Can you tell I’m angry and scared? Does anyone know how many inmates have died in Virginia jails and prisons recently? Google it.
I wanted this to be a more upbeat post. That’s who we are. We’re a family that prefers good news, and making people feel better. But, sadly that’s not this post.
So, what’s next? I keep calling senators, trying to get the governor involved, hoping that someone will factor into their political agenda that WE THE PEOPLE, YOU THE PEOPLE, do not want an innocent young man with autism being tortured because of a technicality of the law.
It is time for someone other than his parents to get mad as hell, step up and get him out of there.
The judge himself stated before he sent Drew to prison that he had read all of the letters attached to the request for in home incarceration. Drew’s attorney didn’t ask this judge for the moon. He simply asked for home incarceration instead of prison. In that stack of letters was information about Drew as an individual from people who know him very well, such as his psychiatrist, therapist and others. There were also letters from The Arc of Washington, DC., autism experts, Drew’s probation officer for the past 2 1/2 years, Drew, my husband and me. All of these letters provided him with every good reason NOT to send Drew to prison, but instead to allow in home incarceration.
Many of the letters focused on informing the judge of the ways incarceration is torturous for people with autism. The florescent lighting, both the brightness and the humming sound, the loud, ongoing noise and chatter, the lack of any predictability; from guard to guard, from cell to cell, being moved abruptly with no notice, and the myriad of safety issues for someone on the spectrum. In other words, by the nature of his handicap one day for the average person is like weeks for Drew.
Despite all of the reasonable doubt in this case, his absurd reasoning for conviction, and his insistence upon sentencing Drew despite a hearing on June 30, 2014 that pointed out inconsistent testimony by the complaining witness/“victim”, the judge sentenced Drew to spend the next three years of his life in prison. His reasoning is below. I did not include every word he said, but kept the following word for word straight from the transcript.
[“Any sentencing decision in a criminal case serves several functions. One function is what is often called specific deterrence, meaning we’re attempting by our sentence to deter the specific person from ever re-offending. I said previously, and I’ll say now, I don’t think specific deterrence will be achieved by any sentence because I don’t think this gentleman’s going to re-offend. Rehabilitation is another goal of sentencing. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think the sentence to be served here will serve rehabilitation. But I’ve also pointed out, and I’ll point out again because I repeat, I thought about this when I took the file home last night: There are two important sentencing considerations which also have to be taken into account. I emphasized the concept of specific deterrence, deterring this Defendant from re-offending again. There’s what is also called general deterrence, sometimes called the signal we send by our sentences. We’re deterring generally the citizens of this community in the sense that these are public courtrooms, these are public records. A sentence sends a signal as to what this community will do, will tolerate, what they won’t tolerate with respect to law-breaking behavior, and I think that’s an important consideration, and I think the goal of general deterrence, the signal we send by our sentences, has no direct relevance to this Defendant before the Court. I repeat, it’s the signal we send; it’s what folks in the community think, and I ask rhetorically what would folks in this community think if a violent sexual assault were to produce a sentence either that Mr. Cooley contends for or a sentence that would be seen as de minimis? I think to answer my own question, that would be a bad signal. They would think that’s not appropriate, and that issue of general deterrence, what the public will think from sentences imposed, is a factor.”]
So, it seems the judge sent Drew to prison for a “crime” that is fraught with reasonable doubt in the first place. He did this despite numerous autism experts pleading with him to let this kindhearted young man serve his sentence of three years via in home incarceration. The judge said Drew doesn’t need deterrence or rehabilitation, but the public wants it and criminals need this example to be set. In this regard locking Drew up for three years benefits society at Drew’s expense. Not to mention at YOUR financial expense. As if the inhumanity isn’t enough let’s look at that issue. Would you rather approximately $30,000 per year go to keeping my son (who according to the judge doesn’t need rehabilitation, and isn’t a threat) locked up in a prison, or put toward hiring a new teacher?
Read it again. Read this part:
[and I think that’s an important consideration, and I think the goal of general deterrence, the signal we send by our sentences, has no direct relevance to this Defendant before the Court. I repeat, it’s the signal we send; ] Wow, well that would be powerful if it weren’t so absurd. He’s sending my son with autism to prison so that YOU will rest easier knowing this violent sexual offense won’t be tolerated in our community?
And, I must point out here that the judge used the term [“violent sexual assault”] in my opinion so the transcripts reflect that term, and pack a powerful, scary image. But, if you read the transcript from when he sentenced Drew on June 30, 2014 he, the same judge didn’t see this as a violent offense, but something on the other end of the spectrum. Please for the love of God read my blog…read his own words.
A civilized society should not condone this. Instead, it should demand that it be stopped. And, society should demand that legislators appoint judges with better critical thinking skills.
So, this is where we’re at. Drew is desperate to come home. He has suffered beyond belief. If an animal were being treated the way he’s been treated the public would be picketing to stop the inhumane madness. But the judge believes that you, the community prefer that our son with autism be locked up in a prison instead of allowing him to serve his sentence at home where he would receive his medications and proper medical care. The judge has basically spoken on your behalf. I ask you to please respond and tell him your opinion. Your voice matters. Your voice can make a difference. I am aware that a number of people with power and influence; who can step in and help are reading my blog.
All I ask is that you let your voice and opinion be heard. Please speak out with a public post or send me an email at the email address provided on this blog site. I also welcome any of your suggestions. Remember, my post, It Takes A Village? Your comments could literally SAVE DREW.