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Stephanie George has never used drugs, but she earned a prison sentence of life without parole for a drug-related crime.

Today, by the luck of a commutation from President Obama, George is living again, learning to mother her 24-year-old daughter and working in a restaurant because her criminal record impedes her hair-stylist ambitions.

“I thank God I am here,” says George, blinking back tears as her pink-dyed hair and matching toenails signal she hasn’t lost her spunk for style.

“I lost a baby son before I came out. My daughter was six when I went in, and 23 when I left. It’s hard. It’s hard. It’s hard. You know your daughter, but it’s not a connection.”

After she became pregnant, Barbra Scrivner overcame an addiction to methamphetamine inspired by a childhood ruined by abuse.

But by refusing to testify against the men who facilitated her involvement in selling drugs, Scrivner paid 20 years of her life.

“I don’t know any of my family at all…the ones that are left,” says Scrivner, a tall woman with long dark hair and piercing blue eyes who lost her parents and both sets of grandparents during her incarceration.

Debi Campbell was also addicted to meth, and she sold the drug to feed her habit.

She has no excuses for her behavior, and was prepared to do her time. But when an informant alleged that Campbell sold a larger quantity of the drug than she actually did, she contested it.

The judge did not much appreciate Campbell’s denial, and handed down a fat 19-year prison sentence to show it. [Read more…]