Missing Phyllis Hardy: Remembering a Senior Citizen in Prison

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and as the Christmas holiday draws near, I can’t help but think about a women I left behind in federal prison. When I was incarcerated the most exciting time during this time of year was New Year’s Eve. That day marks the end of a long arduous 365 day cycle and brings most inmates closer to release. When I went to prison in 1993 I never imagined I would endure over 6,750 days in prison.

I left behind Ms. Phyllis, a 70-year-old woman who has served 23 years in prison. I was with Ms. Phyllis in Danbury, Connecticut for eight years. Every year around Christmas time she would make tons of food to feed everyone in our housing unit. She made the most delicious hot tea. We would fall over ourselves to get a cup of that tea knowing that after we drank it down we would sleep like babies. She is truly one of the kindest women I have ever met. I can just see her standing at the microwave preparing meals, and treats for us all.

Everyone affectionately called Ms. Phyllis, “Grandma,” and we all did our best to look after her. Eventually her knees got bad and before you knew it she was ailing right before our eyes. It would please my heart to see her come home one day. Ms. Phyllis is one of many of the growing population of elderly prisoners. Many states are overwhelmed with the costliness of incarcerating the elderly, often due to draconian laws such as the three strikes law. The abolition of federal parole has also contributed to the increase in elderly inmates in the Federal system.

It is well understood that everyone must be held accountable for his or her actions. Nevertheless, during this holiday season I can’t help but think about senior citizens of the United States who are serving lengthy sentences in prison.

Video: Prisons for Aging Inmates

I never imagined I would endure over 6,750 days in prison. I remember being super excited when the new millennium approached. The year 2000 seemed like a myth. Another 11 years passed by the time I was finally released. I hope Ms. Phyllis can be as fortunate. She was sentenced to 30 years and I pray that her health will hold up and she will be blessed with an opportunity to spend time with her family before she meets her demise. My heart goes out to her family.

I’m a firm believer that everyone has a time to be born and a time to die. Although nobody will live forever, nobody wants to die in prison. That’s any inmate’s worst nightmare



About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 

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