Phyllis “Grandma” Hardy Makes It Out of Prison Alive
Date:  04-08-2015

Hardy’s case highlights what’s wrong with a system that locks up non-violent, sick and elderly people up for decades
Those who know Phyllis Hardy will tell you she is a perfect example of how America’s criminal justice system is broken.(Full disclosure: Beatrice Codianni, the managing editor of Reentry Central has been a friend of Phyllis Hardy for almost 20 years,)

Known as “Grandma,” Hardy was a model prisoner, respected by those who were incarcerated with her as well as those who worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. For years Hardy worked in the Danbury Federal Correctional Institute’s UNICOR machine shop where her skill and dependability helped keep that department running smoothly, and productively, thus making it profitable.

When her security level dropped to “minimum,” Hardy was sent to Danbury’s Federal Prison Camp where she was selected to participate in a program that brought women incarcerated at the camp into the community to speak to at-risk youths and others. Reentry Central and others mused that if Hardy and the other women at the camp were deemed not to be a threat to the community why were taxpayers still forking over millions of dollars to keep them locked up?

Hardy’s name became well-known to those working for clemency for federal prisoners. At the June 21, 2014 Free Her rally in Washington, D.C. Hardy’s name was mentioned by several speakers who called for the President to free her, and thousands like her.

After being incarcerated since 1991, Hardy finally was released, but not before being sent to the Federal Prison Medical Center in Carswell,Texas for treatment of ongoing health problems. Family and friends were genuinely concerned that Hardy would leave prison, not on her own accord but in a body bag. Fortunately, that was not the case.

While we celebrate Hardy’s homecoming we are aware of the sick, the elderly and those who are serving harsh sentences for non-violent crimes who are still locked up. In the article below written for Truthout, Victoria Law tells about Hardy and others caught up in a criminal justice system that readers might find disturbing and frustrating.


By Victoria Law, Truthout April 7, 2015

After 23 years and five months behind bars, Phyllis Hardy was wheeled off a plane in North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham airport and into the arms of her family. "I felt ecstatic," she told Truthout. "I hadn't seen them since I left Danbury [over a year earlier]." Among those welcoming her home were her two sons, her husband, an old family friend, her daughter-in-law and a 9-year-old granddaughter whom she had last seen when she was 18 months old. The family drove to Red Lobster where Hardy had her first out-of-prison meal with even more family members. "We all ate and laughed and talked and hugged and kissed." As reported previously, Phyllis Hardy, known as "Grandma" to the women around her, was sentenced to 366 months (or 30.5 years) in federal prison for conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and money laundering. She entered prison in November 1991.

Her youngest son, Yuma Hardy, still remembers the day his mother was taken away. "I was in school," he told Truthout. "Someone told me that the police were at my house, so I left school and came home." By the time Yuma arrived, his mother was gone. His brother Greg was the one to break the news to him. While they had known that their father, who was separated from Hardy and living in a different state at the time, had been arrested, neither had thought this would affect their mother. "I don't think it ever crossed my mind that it was going to have anything to do with her," Yuma Hardy explained. "It was a total shock."

Hardy was granted compassionate release under the new guidelines that allow people ages 65 and over who have served at least 10 years or 75 percent of their sentence to apply. The time away has had a lasting impact on both of her sons. "My mother has been taken from me for 23 years," her elder son Greg Walker told Truthout. "I was 23 when she was taken away. My brother was still in high school. She made me promise to make sure he finished high school. I honored that." But it hasn't been easy, he acknowledged. "My mother was incarcerated, but so were we. We were basically incarcerated too."

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