Lisa grew up in a nice suburb outside of Dallas, Texas, in a loving, working-class home with two older brothers. Her parents have been married 50 years.
Despite this upbringing, she had difficulty fitting in during her teenage years. She eventually dropped out of school and obtained her GED.
Lisa worked hard, holding down jobs in retail management and event planning. But she made bad choices in friends. She began experimenting with drugs and was a casual user until 2005.
Lisa entered an abusive relationship and began using methamphetamine to cope.
“Over a three-year period, my drug use continued until I was using meth on a daily basis,” Lisa says. “Every area of my life was affected: I quit jobs, wasted my savings, and pushed my family and friends away so I could hide my addiction.”
At this point in her addiction, in the spring of 2008, Lisa met a new man. He was a dealer, and, at first, Lisa only purchased drugs from him. In July of that year, they began dating.
Lisa escaped her existing abusive relationship and went to this new man who was “good-looking, charismatic, and persuasive,” she recalls. “I was vulnerable, and I fell for him.”
On August 19, less than one month after they’d started dating, Lisa’s new boyfriend decided to fulfill a promise to paint and remodel her living room. After starting the project, he said that he needed a few additional items.
He asked Lisa to drive him to Home Depot. She did so, having no reason to believe they were going to do anything other than shop.
According to court documents, her boyfriend had arranged to sell four ounces of meth in the parking lot of the store.
The buyer turned out to be a confidential informant, a citizen who provides information to law enforcement, often in exchange for a reduction in his or her criminal charges.
Lisa and her boyfriend were arrested. Police found meth and a gun in Lisa’s car.
“I had no reason to suspect that he brought the gun or drugs,” Lisa says.
After the two were arrested, police searched Lisa’s home and found drugs. Lisa says that her boyfriend, who had been a frequent visitor to her home, told authorities she wasn’t involved in his business, but she was charged as part of what she calls a “whopping three-person conspiracy” – herself, her boyfriend, and his supplier.
Pending trial, Lisa was released by the judge and allowed to remain in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. But her addiction still plagued her. While she was awaiting trial, she used drugs again and failed a drug test. Because she violated the conditions of her release, she was denied an opportunity to receive a reduced sentence.
Ultimately, Lisa pleaded guilty to her crimes. She believed her boyfriend’s vouching for her, plus the fact that she had never been arrested, would mean a light penalty.
However, she was held responsible for the entire quantity of drugs found in the car and in her home—106.95 grams. Lisa admits that a small amount of this was meant for her personal use but says the rest belonged to her boyfriend.
Lisa was given the lowest possible sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines: 151 months—about 12.5 years in prison. She received just two years less than her boyfriend, who had prior state drug convictions. The supplier received the shortest sentence: 9 years.
Lisa doesn’t understand how a non-violent, first-time offender who was struggling with addiction received more prison time than a supplier.
“I admit that during my addiction, of course I broke the law; I purchased drugs, I possessed drugs, I used drugs, I even sold some drugs on occasion,” she says. “That doesn’t mean that I should’ve been charged equally in the conspiracy and sentenced to more time than the top conspirator in the case.”
Lisa is now roughly halfway through her sentence.
Since being incarcerated, she has successfully completed treatment for addiction, maintained her sobriety, become a Christian, and taken college courses. She also helps newcomers adjust to life in prison. Lisa believes that, in some respects, prison saved her life.
“I am thankful that this has changed my life for the better and saved me from continuing down the path of addiction,” she says. “My incarceration was caused by my own decision to use drugs, and I accept responsibility for my choices.”
Still, Lisa believes 12 years behind bars and all the consequences that come with it — not being able to care for her elderly parents, for example—is too steep a price to pay for bad choices she made more than a decade ago, while addicted to drugs.
The Facts: Lisa Lorentz
Sentence: 151 months (12.5 years)
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and Dispense and Possess with Intent to Distribute methamphetamine
Year sentenced: 2009
Age at sentencing: 38
Projected release date: Dec. 26, 2019
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