At House of Wise, we stand for fairness, equality, and empowerment of women who want to take control of their lives. That’s why we’re a proud partner of Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit organization fighting criminal injustice and reimagining drug policy specifically on cannabis-related incarceration.
Imagine if making a profit from a cannabis business landed you in jail for years. That’s why over 40,000 people in the U.S. are incarcerated — for something others are successfully building in public.
We know it’s not fair. Our House wants to feature resilient women who faced cannabis criminalization and came out stronger for it. So, we asked real women from LPP’s community to share what it’s like to come out on the other side of a cannabis-related prison sentence. Here is Evelyn’s story.
Meet Evelyn LaChapelle
Evelyn’s story is not unlike many women who find themselves in prison for cannabis-related charges. She’s a mom, a hard-worker, a daughter, and a friend. She loves eating good food and visiting with nature. But she spent many of her formative adult years behind bars.
Cannabis-related charge: Conspiracy to distribute with the intent to sell marijuana
Sentence: 87 months (over seven years) in federal prison as a first time nonviolent offender
Guilt and shame are real.
“You feel many things in prison, starting with depression and extreme guilt,” Evelyn said. The guilt and shame were real for Evelyn, for the actions that led her to prison and how she left her family.
In 2013, Evelyn had a four-year-old daughter at home, with her mother and step-mother there to raise her. Her aunt also pulled $25,000 out of her home equity to help her fight this case, and she still ended up in prison for something millions do legally today.
“America legalized what tore me from my family.”
Evelyn was imprisoned for receiving profits from a cannabis business. But then the cannabis industry started to take off, even being publicly traded on the stock market. “My feelings shifted to anger and frustration. How could I possibly be in prison while America legalizes the plant that has torn me from my family?”
The shock went beyond misunderstanding: “I felt unheard and unseen. I knew that the people building this industry had no idea that I even existed in my prison cell.”
Home changes while you’re away.
We know life doesn’t stop when someone serves jail time. Kids grow, loved ones pass, and friends change. Evelyn said being away is unexplainable. And the hurt from milestones she’ll never get back.
“I missed my daughter’s life between the ages of 4 and 9. I didn't see her on her first day of school or kindergarten graduation. I missed all of her teeth falling out.”
Evelyn lost two major women in her life early in her prison sentence; her grandmother died two months after incarceration began, and her step-mother died just 22 months later.
“Being away from home is so much more than being away because home changes,” she said.
Last Prisoner Project’s impact
Evelyn’s story turned around when LPP gave her a platform to share her story. She says that has been the most therapeutic part of her reentry. But that wasn’t all. LPP granted a micro-grant for her daughter's school tuition and even later offered Evelyn full-time employment at LPP.
Evelyn now serves as a program assistant for Last Prisoner Project, where she can help other people thrive who have been in her same shoes. She’s also building her cannabis brand named 87 after the months she served in prison.
“Cannabis criminalization affects more than the incarcerated; it affects our families for generations.” - Evelyn LaChapelle
To learn more about Last Prisoner Project and its efforts, visit lastprisonerproject.org.