Shanita McKnight – 1st Offender – 20 years

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Shanita McKnight – 1st Offender – 20 years



Please sign and share Shanita’s clemency petition on Change

Name: Shanita McKnight
DOB: 4/22/73
Race: black
Martial status: married
Age: 43
Children: 2
State raised: SC
State charged: SC
Will release: Charlotte, NC
Charges: count 1 conspiracy to posses narcotics with the intent to distribute and count 2 extortion of a public employee
Sentence: 20 years
Served to date: 9 years
Started sentence on: 5-27-09
Priors: none
Prison conduct: stellar

Supporters: Family members, CAN-DO Foundation, Families for Justice as Healing, the LOHM,
Institution: Colemantracy-ward

Shanita McKnight’s case was
covered by ABC News.

 About the case: 

I am not the same person that I was eight years ago. When I was arrested and sentenced, I blamed everyone but myself. I did not accept responsibility for the choices that I made. All I could see was that I did not sell drugs and did not belong in prison.  As a police officer, I should have never agreed to obtain licenses in my name for a night club where there was known drug involvement.  My family needed it as a source of income so when they asked me; against my better judgement, I reluctantly agreed.

My aunt’s boyfriend was a known drug dealer and my aunt worked at the family business (night club) where illegal activity often ran rampant.  In December of 2004, my aunt’s boyfriend gave me $200.00 dollars as a Christmas gift for my children. On another occasion my aunt’s boyfriend gave me $40.00, which was change that was left over from a set of bar stools that he purchased for the night club.  When questioned, by the authorities, I willingly volunteered this information.

My lawyer did not fully explain to me that I needed to plead to public corruption and have the other charges dropped.  I thought that if I pled to one of them I was admitting to selling drugs. I was in Law Enforcement and honestly did not fully understand the extent of the charges against me.  I took my chances and went to trial.  I received 20 years.  I thought that if I told the truth everything would be ok. It turns out that I was held responsible for conspiracy charges for a net-work of people that were selling and distributing crack-cocaine.  Looking back, I should have pled guilty to corruption while in office.  As a police officer, I took money from a known drug dealer and that was wrong.

Shanita and cousin Tracy Wardy


Resolve Program-Currently
Women in 21st Century
Health/Nutrition Class
Basic Into to wellness
Photography Class
Material Coordinator
Beginner Aerobics
Latin Rhythm Aerobics
High Intensity Cardio Exercise
Beginner Toning & Floor Exercises
Overall Wellness Course
Super Set Fat Burning Class
Beginner & Wheelchair Yoga
Advanced Aerobics
Fitness/Sedentary Lifestyle
Sleep Disturbances
Thinking for a Change
Coping Skills
Developing Insight
Basic Parenting Skills
Dealing with Domestic Violence
Relationship Issues
Managing Emotions
Managing Angry Feelings
Life in Balance
Adjusting to Prison
Trauma in life workshop
Managing Stress
Gang Involvement
Into to French
ACE Creative Writing
Resume & Cover Letters
ACE Excel
Algebra 1
AIDS Awareness
Family day volunteer
Home Construction & Inspection
Over 100 certificates

According to Shanita: 

My name is Shanita McKnight.  I am a 44-year-old mother of two.  I have currently served 10 years of a 20-year sentence for a non-violent drug offense and extortion by a public employee.  My purpose for writing you this letter is to ask you for a second chance.  Regardless of my clear conduct in prison, no matter the amount of rewards or certificates I have received or good deeds I have performed, I can’t make up for the pain, shame & humiliation I brought to my family, my community and myself.  I am truly sorry for violating & failing the very people, I swore to protect — both at a personal level (my children) and at a professional level (my community).  Yet I still ask you for the opportunity to pay my debt back to society in a real & meaningful way.  I ask with a desire to show that a person, especially teens and young adults, can learn from their mistake — even tragic mistakes — and grow into moral, responsible and positive contributors to society.

I made a mistake, and I am sorry.  I have accepted full responsibility for the poor decisions I made.  There is no one to blame by myself.  This self-inflicted calamity has changed my life forever and it has given me the opportunity to heal, to develop and to become a better person.  Therefore, my incarceration has benefited me in a positive way.  Please do not judge me by my Pre-sentencing Report because it does not give an accurate picture of the person I am.  I am not the monster the media and prosecutors made me out to be.  My mistake is only a snapshot of the person I am.  I am not asking you to be easy on crime.  I will pay for my crime for the rest of my life, because this is inside of me.  I long for the opportunity to make amends and to show people everywhere that prison can be a place of redemption and rehabilitation instead of only punishment.

Finally, my children are still in their most impressionable years and they desperately need their mother.  The impact of my incarceration has been catastrophic to my entire family, but particularly my 15-year-old daughter.  She has endured many painful consequences of my incarceration, including homelessness and emotional trauma.

I am your model inmate for this clemency movement:

1) Nonviolent, first-time offender

2) Served 10 years of a 20-year sentence

3) Lowest security classification at “Camp-status”

4) Clear conduct (“shot”-free)

5) Programmed extensively (62 classes & apprenticeships)

6) Volunteered & assisted the women here at Coleman, Tallahassee & Carswell

7) A strong support system consisting of

  1. A) Family
  2. B) Community
  3. C) Friends
  4. D) Coaches

I am ready and eager to successfully return to society and make a positive contribution.


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