Sitting in her jail cell this week, Patricia Spottedcrow couldn’t imagine where she was going to get the money she needed for her release.
In 2010, the young Oklahoma mother, who had been caught selling $31 worth of marijuana to a police informant after financial troubles caused her to lose her home, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. It was her first-ever offense, and the lengthy sentence drew national attention, sparking a movement that led to her early release.
But once she was home free, Spottedcrow still owed thousands in court fees that she struggled to pay, since her felony conviction made it difficult to find a job. Notices about overdue payments piled up, with late fees accumulating on top of the original fines. On Monday, the 34-year-old was arrested on a bench warrant that required her to stay in jail until she could come up with $1,139.90 in overdue fees, which she didn’t have. Nearly a decade after her initial arrest, she was still ensnarled in the criminal justice system, and had no idea when she would see her kids again.
“I had no idea how I was going to pay this off,” Spottedcrow told KFOR on Wednesday, after strangers raised the money for her release. “I knew I was going to be sitting here for a while.”
Back in 2011, Spottedcrow became an unwitting poster child for criminal justice reform when the Tulsa World featured her in a series about women incarcerated in Oklahoma. Then 25, she had just entered prison for the first time, and didn’t expect to be reunited with her young children until they were teenagers.