Alana Moore is a former meth addict who is serving a mandatory sentence of Life Without Parole following her third drug-related conviction, which consisted of trading boxes of Sudafed to a meth cook/dealer in exchange for cooked meth. Like so many other drug cases, Arlana was charged with conspiracy and the amount of meth that could possibly be made from the Sudafed she provided was added with other amounts held by the cook/dealer – increasing the possible quantity of meth Arlana was charged with and the amount of time she faced in prison. While Arlana continues to languish in prison, however, the cook/dealer and his other accomplices have already been released after serving substantially shorter sentences. Arlana is no danger to anyone and should be immediately released.
Drug War Stories wrote to Arlana earlier this year and received a lengthy letter describing her life, background, addiction, criminal history, and prison experiences. The following are Arlana’s own words, with minor edits (with her permission) for grammar, spelling and clarity.
MY BACKGROUND, FAMILY, AND JOB HISTORY:
I was raised in a super-small town out in the desert oilfields of west Texas in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I have two sisters and a younger brother. My parents (a coach and a Sunday School teacher/ school secretary) were very conservative, old- fashioned, and overly protective and strict. This was in the age of free-thinking, sexual freedom, and drugs were being glorified as the latest craze of the New Age. It was a common phenomenon for rebellious teens to run away from stifled homes to experience a taste of freedom.
I became a runaway at age 16, due to severe depression and anger at my dad, who accused and punished first before even questioning. At the time, I had a lot going for me (was Class President, Class Favorite, cheerleader, an A+ student winning awards in Art and U.I.L. Scholastic events). This is how deeply affected I was by this harsh treatment and constant criticism.
I became a runaway at age 16, due to severe depression and anger at my dad…
I had met a 15-year old runaway who had been housed at a nearby state facility until we decided to hitchhike to Dallas, where she was from. She loved doing drugs and partying, so I was introduced to her friends and lifestyle. Back then, all kinds of very potent drugs were easily attainable from doctors (quacks) and weight loss clinics. No I.D. was needed, and you could get all kinds of various amphetamines for a $15 doctor visit. The harder, water-soluble pills (pure methamphetamine Desoxyn) could be obtained at the $40 clinics with stricter standards (blood pressure tests and heavier weight). There were also the doctors dispensing Quaaludes and Barbiturates for symptoms of nervous exhaustion from staying up for days without eating. The vicious cycle of drug use was never-ending as far as affordable pure pharmaceuticals that many people used to party with.
In 1979, these easily prescribed drugs were mostly outlawed due to the high rate of abuse and addict ion and overdoses. Amphetamines could no longer be prescribed for weight loss. I was 20 years old at the time and decided to try to make something out of my life. My beloved grandfather had just died, and I moved back to my old hometown to live with my grandmother. I took a G.E.D., enrolled in a college (an hour’s drive away) and also worked full-time at a convenience store. I moved to Odessa, a thriving boom-town, in the early 1980’s.
As a full-time Pell grant student, and Y.M.C.A. receptionist, I still managed to hit the rock and roll nightclubs on weekends and ladies night. I met a boyfriend who happened to start dealing meth and the rest is history. At first I thought the drug would help with energy and studies, but after weeks of nonstop use, I could not even wake up for class no matter what. My energy was drained and I eventually quit my job. My boyfriend went crazy with paranoid schizophrenia. I could not take it anymore and kicked him out. At this point, it was too late to recoup my losses as I couldn’t pay my rent or save my college grades (W for Withdrawn=Failing).
I ended up moving back to Dallas and continued my lifestyle of partying and doing drugs. I met a sugar daddy who paid for everything–my apartment, bills, car and spending money. At the time, it seemed okay to do drugs since I didn’t sell any or steal from anyone. But in hindsight, I see that I traded in a “normal life” (maybe getting married and having kids) for a wasteful addicted life. Back in west Texas, my beloved grandmother died, and on one of my visits back home, I was pulled over and busted with possession of a few grams of meth. I was 32 years old, which ended my decade of living in Dallas. Over the next 20 years, I struggled with sobriety, but most of the time, I worked, kept a job, spent half of that time on probation (never getting arrested on any violations), attended all required meetings, counseling, paid all fines and fees, and bought my own trailer home and car in the same small town I was raised in.
Over the next 20 years, I struggled with sobriety, but most of the time, I worked, kept a job, spent half of that time on probation (never getting arrested on any violations), attended all required meetings, counseling, paid all fines and fees, and bought my own trailer home and car in the same small town I was raised in.
MY FIRST DRUG OFFENSE (Cause #18,463-Eastland, TX.)
In 1990, while making a trip across Texas to visit my parents and sisters, I was pulled over at 1:00 A.M. I wasn’t worried, because I didn’t drink, and I had all my legal papers (license, registration, and insurance). I did have a couple of grams of meth in my purse, but I was under the mistaken impression that cops needed a reason to search or a warrant, or permission. When asked if he could search, I said “no,” so he ransacked the car and arrested me. The bond was initially $1,200 but my family got wind of this due to my mom’s cousin being a dispatcher in this town I had driven through. So my dad called my boyfriend and told him they were going to come get me, and by the time they arrived 4 days later, my bond was raised to $40,000. Why, I don’t know. Instead of bond, I agreed to 10 years of probation.
My dad wanted me to live out there (to make up for my early runaway years), so I signed a 10 year probation plea offer. The state confiscated my car so I had to start from scratch. I did manage to keep steady jobs and stay straight, saving money and reuniting with my family. After 4 1/2 years, I was released early from probation. I had never missed a payment, drug test, or work and I was able to be independent. This was the “1st drug felony” on the 3-Strikes Law for a life [sentence].
MY SECOND DRUG FELONY: 2005 (Cause #P-2649-112 Fort Stockton, TX.)
My second drug offense was in 2005, 9 years after I was released off of probation for the 1st offense. I had been working for Visiting Nurses of Del Rio, a home health care agency. I was also paid by Texas D.O.T. to give patients rides to and from doctor visits (one hour round trip). One evening after a doctor trip, I dropped my client off so I could attend an outdoor concert in Fort Stockton, Texas (another 45 minutes from my home). Beer was sold there and I was pulled over after midnight. At first the D.P.S. officer said I was speeding, then changed his agenda when I told him where I had been. Upon answering “yes” to his question if I had drunk any beer (how dumb of me, but I had only drank two), he immediately asked to search my car. Upon saying “no,” he cuffed me and found some codeine pills in my car.
He said I was now being arrested for a controlled substance (the bottle was prescribed for my home health care patient). He said also suspicion of D.U.I., until I could be tested at “the station.” Both of those charges were dropped later. I passed the breathalyzer (.06), yet when I was strip-searched, I had some of the codeine pill s in my pocket. So I pled guilty to “Controlled Substance in a Correctional Facility,” and received 5 years deferred adjudication probation. I paid $90 a month for 3 1/2 years, and was about to apply for an early release of probation when I was arrested for the current offense (“Conspiracy to Manufacture Methamphetamine”), which would be the 3rd and final drug offense that incurred my mandatory life sentence.
MY 3RD AND CURRENT OFFENSE (7:09-cr-00260 Western District of Texas, Midland-Odessa Division)
For those 19 years I lived in west Texas, I worked and managed to avoid any probation violations or traffic ticket warrants (I paid all fines and fees, attended meetings and took drug tests). My worst fear was going to jail or prison for even one day … how ironic that I now languish in prison (my first and only stint) on a Life Without Parole bid.
For several years, I had been working as a weigh clerk at a local sand & gravel plant. I had 13-hour shifts, which started at 4:00 A.M. It was very hard on me due to the fact I had been taking prescription Xanax for 10 years daily, prescribed for anxiety and sleep. I felt like I lacked the stamina and energy for this job (which paid well in overtime), plus all my household chores, pet care, shopping, and the hour-long weekly drive to the bank or grocery store to cash my check. (The plant was out in the boonies as was my residence).
While in town one day, a friend told me there was an Odessan visiting family there and selling meth. I hadn’t done any in a long while, as I did not have any connections for any. I had been making a lot of money, so I bought some. Every few weeks, the meth dealer/cook showed up to sell meth, and on one trip, he said he needed pseudo-ephedrine pills (Sudafed cold tablets) or he wouldn’t be able to provide any more sales to me, as I lived too far (an hour) from his residence. The trip would only be worth it to him, he said, if I also had pills ready to trade for meth (1/2 gram per box).
Of course, I was too paranoid and argued about the illegal possibilities, so he showed me a receipt (from Walgreens) that plainly stated that a person could legally purchase up to 3 grams in one day (two 24-count boxes), and also a person could purchase up to 9 grams in one month (six 24-count boxes). He also said that he had customers buying these pills for over 2 years and nobody had ever been questioned or busted in connection with pill purchases. I had never owned a computer and did not know how to use one or I would have definitely researched all of this or to see if anyone had ever been busted for it. It was 2007, and I had never heard of anyone going to jail unless it was a cook or a dealer. So every time I drove to go cash my check (twice a month), I would purchase pills (under the legal limit). I never dreamed this would land me in prison, and on a life sentence at that! I would not have bought one single box!
Over a 20-month span, I’d drive 30 minutes (once a month) to meet the cook/dealer halfway between my home and his for the cash and pills to be traded for one or two grams (a personal use amount) of meth. My total purchases added up to 37 [grams], but that was much less than others (like the 2 girlfriends who assisted him and housed labs in their homes). They each received 41 months and 59 months respectively. The meth cook received 78 months (6 1/2 years). All three corroborated his story of which drug customers had purchased pills so indictments could be written up as a “conspiracy ring.” Everyone had separate individual indictments because nobody acted “as a group.” These were all separate drug deals.
My total purchases added up to 37 [grams], but that was much less than others (like the 2 girlfriends who assisted him and housed labs in their homes). They each received 41 months and 59 months respectively. The meth cook received 78 months (6 1/2 years).
I didn’t know anyone when they rounded everybody up. I did not live or socialize in Odessa. Nobody questioned had even known my last name, but with a first name like “Arlana” from a small town (population 290), the local sheriff was able to provide my last name to the investigator when he called to ask who in my town was named “Arlana.” This was the evidence needed to pull up my driver’s license information to obtain pharmacy records. The actual “ringleader” and creator of this crime and his assistants have all been out of prison for years now.
Even though I had no stake in the outcome, and simply used these pills as a cash transaction (each box worth $50 worth of drugs) in a monthly dealer/customer trade-off, this offense was classified under the umbrella term of “conspiracy.” This crime under the “conspiracy law” penalizes even the most minor players with the same charges and penalties (in my case, much more) as the actual kingpins and ringleaders (who are in a position to give the government names and information on everyone “underneath them”).
The government also added the cook’s own pill purchases together with mine to make the total “grams of possible methamphetamine made” add up to “over 50 grams” (the highest possible penalty .. so that anyone with a minor criminal record of drug usage warrants an enhanced penalty of “20-to-life”). So my P.S.L. states that together with the cook’s pill purchases, “58 grams of possible methamphetamine could have been produced.” Because of my two (petty) past drug convictions (that I already served probation on–one decades old), I was given a life sentence.
I had never been locked up for longer than a day except for the 1 week in Eastland for that 1st drug arrest. But this offense carried no bond due to my past criminal record, even though I had no arrests for probation violations or even unpaid traffic tickets. I’d never had a warrant for arrest before this.
While undergoing the harsh withdrawal effects from 10-years of prescription Xanax and 30 years cigarette smoking (panic attacks, migraine headaches, shakes, and extreme depression), I was appointed an overly aggressive, enthusiastic attorney who visited me daily for 3 weeks. He was excited that the only evidence in my Discovery was pharmacy ledgers, and claimed we “had a good shot at dismissal from lack of evidence.” He bragged how he had won many rounds against the prosecutors and openly accused them of “unfair tactics and hiding things.” He sure was not trying to get me any deals and even told me that if I tried to accept a plea, then I would “most likely die in prison.” He was constantly arguing with them, so they were at each other’s throats. I mistakenly assumed that he must know what he was doing if he’d “won so many cases,” as he insisted. I also never dreamed he would get paid more for going to trial, since everyone said most lawyers will try to tell you to accept a plea due to the flat fate fee they get paid by the government. I could not fathom any agenda for a lawyer to insist on trial unless he really thought the client had a good chance. The “no defense but lack of evidence” strategy miserably failed and I was found “Guilty” on all counts (he also told me since the jury “took 50 minutes that meant they had trouble deciding, otherwise it would have taken 15 minutes!”) Like that was comforting in the face of a mandatory “life without parole sentence.”
Then I began to meet others in jail or in transit buses (to and from court) who were upset because the same lawyer had convinced them to also go to trial, including another 50-year old on trial for drug conspiracy (who also got life). Altogether, I counted 5 others I met with the same story (one lady in Oklahoma transfer center) about the same lawyer. And all of their cases were lost at trial. Such was my luck … Since then I have met others with the same charges and hefty criminal records who got six and seven years, (minus 2 more years for the 2-point reduction) by being able to plead to “possession to pseudo-ephedrine with intent to manufacture.” I never had a clue this was even possible, until later. My lawyer had told me I was enhanced to “20-to-life” on the 2nd day of arrest because I did not want to answer their questions without an attorney present. I live with these regrets every day. Thankfully, Obama began a clemency initiative that gives us all hope that someday we may see life outside again as a repentant drug addict.
I sent my petition out Oct. 1, 2015. I’ve heard nothing, and can’t seem to find out the case number so my family can send letters of support. I have a profile write-up on F.A.M.M. from 2012 [and a] Change.org petition … Without a way to publicize it, it last had under 100 signatures according to my sister who put it on the website.
EFFECTS OF MY INCARCERATION ON MY FAMILY
I feel very ashamed and embarrassed that my (secret?) drug habit was so publicly highlighted and condemned in that I must have been totally desperate and totally in “denial,” not to foresee the horrible consequences of a bad choice. I did not listen to my own paranoia about buying Sudafed, that’s how blinded by my own addiction I was to allow myself to be talked into it.
My family has not shunned or judged me and instead they have rallied together to show me their love, forgiveness and support through this awful ordeal. My mom (who is 80 years old) told me she wants me there with her and to help with my older sister (a retired schoolteacher) who has recently become diabetic and disabled, needing help with errands and housework. I feel I am blessed with the health and energy to help out. I am so grateful for their loving support. I guess I never knew how much I was loved until this devastating ordeal. My younger sister has brought all my beloved nieces and nephew to visit me. I feel blessed!
We all have our hearts set on clemency, as I have no violence, theft, smuggling, dealing, or fraud on my record (just drug using, basically). I have lost all my desire to ever use again, and I retain only the bad memories associated with it–the draining of energy and will, and hermit-like behavior. I am also very relieved to be over the addiction to cigarettes and prescription Xanax. Those were very difficult to kick mentally. I would never put myself through that again! My sleep/wake cycle is finally normal and I’m no longer anxious, restless or depressed. Here in prison I discovered antidepressants for those kind of symptoms; I only wish I’d known about them before all of this.
I really look forward to someday working again, making more than 12¢ an hour, (standard prison pay). At age 58, I feel like the rest of my life is salvageable, and especially now that my family really needs me, it seems a waste to spend the rest of my life in prison, as my sentencing judge ordered. It would be a miracle to turn this nightmare into a dream come true-through clemency!
DAILY LIFE IN PRISON
I am enrolled in the residential Life Connections Program, an 18-month comprehensive re-entry program based on faith principles. In two months, I will graduate (in October 2016). I have studied and worked in classes to overcome anger, bad habits, conflicts, grief, criminal behavior, and intolerance. I have l earned about managing time, goals, helping others, serving the community, avoiding and managing conflicts and unhealthy emotions. I’ve also learned the invaluable skills of resume writing and job interviewing. I spend my days reading, writing, going to classes, working and exercising. I am happy, busy, and motivated. I still have hope!
I feel very ashamed and embarrassed that my (secret?) drug habit was so publicly highlighted and condemned in that I must have been totally desperate and totally in “denial,” not to foresee the horrible consequences of a bad choice. I did not listen to my own paranoia about buying Sudafed, that’s how blinded by my own addiction I was to allow myself to be talked into it … At age 58, I feel like the rest of my life is salvageable, and especially now that my family really needs me, it seems a waste to spend the rest of my life in prison, as my sentencing judge ordered. It would be a miracle to turn this nightmare into a dream come true-through clemency!