Eugenia Jennings’ mother left her at a neighbor’s house and never returned to get her.
The people who were supposed to take care of Eugenia, wound up beating and molesting her instead.
Eugenia was sexually abused by another neighbor and a prostitute at the age of seven. A year later she was raped by a step-brother and the man who called himself her step-father tried so when she was a teenager.
Eugenia ran away at 13, and shortly thereafter got hooked on crack-cocaine and alcohol.
“She stopped using when she learned she was pregnant but after she gave birth at age 16, desperate for money to support her and her daughter, she began selling drugs. Of course, she was eventually caught,” said her brother, Cedric Parker, who will testify before U.S. senators this week about federal mandatory drug sentences.
While in prison Eugenia got clean, earned a GED and gave birth to another child. But after getting released in 1999, she relapsed.
In June 2000 Eugenia Jennings was arrested for trading 13.9 grams of crack cocaine – differing quantities on two different occasions - for clothing.
She was charged in federal court with two counts of distributing crack cocaine. She pleaded guilty and, because she already had prior offenses for small amounts of drugs, Eugenia was sentenced in 2001 to nearly 22 years in prison; she was 23 years old.
The irony here is, had Eugenia Jennings been found with powder cocaine instead of crack, she would have gotten less than half that amount of time behind bars.
The system, the judge said when sentencing Jennings, had let her down.
“Mrs. Jennings, I’m not mad at you. . . . The fact of the matter is, nobody has ever been there for you when you needed it. Never. You never had anyone who stood up for you. All the government’s ever done is just kick your behind. When you were a child and you had been abused, the government wasn’t there. When your stepfather abused you, the government wasn’t there. When your stepbrother abused you, the government wasn’t there. But, when you get a little bit of crack, the government’s there.
“Now is that fair? No. It’s not. And have you been punished? You bet,” according to a transcript of the court proceedings. “Your whole life has been a life of deprivation, misery, whippings, and there is no way to unwind that. But the truth of the matter is it’s not in my hands. As I told you, Congress has determined that the best way to handle people who are troublesome is we just lock them up. Congress passed the laws.
“And it is an awful thing, an awful thing, to separate a mother from her children,” the judge continued. “And the only person who had the opportunity to avoid that was you . . . . .At every turn in the road we failed you. And we didn’t come to you until it was time to kick your butt. That’s what the government has done for Eugenia Jennings.”