Chalana McFarland – 1st Offender – 30 years – Clemency Granted on 1/20/21

Congratulations to Chalana McFarland who received clemency from President Trump on 1/20/21.  She was serving her sentence on house arrest due to CARES Act when she got the life-altering news.   Chalana is now living in Georgia and has reunited with her daughter, Nia, her parents and extended family.  We could not be happier that Chalana is a clemency recipient and wants to work in criminal justice reform.

Name: Chalana McFarland #58892-019
Race: Black
Marital Status: Married
Age: 53
Children: 1 daughter
Raised: Georgia
Charged: Georgia
Will release to: Atlanta, Georgia
Charges: Mortgage fraud (bank fraud/wire fraud/money laundering/obstruction of justice/perjury)
Sentence: 30 years
Served to date: 15 years
Started sentence on: 2/15/05
Release date: 9/7/2030
Priors: First offense
Prison Conduct: Exemplary disciplinary record. One low level infraction for “refusing to work” when I reported to my regular work detail instead of a voluntary lockdown detail at the USP while housed at camp at Coleman FL
Clemency Status: Pending at the U.S. Pardon Attorney’s Office. Petition submitted by CP14 on 3/31/16 File#:C277600
Supporters: CAN-DO Foundation, The LOHM, EPIC, family, friends, attorney – Lynn Fant, Aleph Institute
Institution: FCI Coleman Camp
Accomplishments: The greatest thing I have ever accomplished is being the mother of my beautiful daughter, Nia.
Education: I graduated cum laude from Florida A&M University in 1991 with a B.S. in Journalism. I received a Doctor of Jurisprudence from John Marshall Law School in Atlanta GA in April 1996.

Chalana with daughter Nia

Chalana with daughter Nia Imani who was 2018 Senior Class President and recipient of the Presidential scholarship at Florida A&M University.

Additional accomplishments in prison:  I began by tutoring Chinese and African detainees in English while in county jail. Once transferred to the FBOP, I participated in the PAWS4PRISONS program where I trained assistance dogs for disabled children and veterans. My dog, Lia was placed with a disabled Marine. I co-founded the IAM (Inmates Ascending Mentoring) Program and G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South) a re-entry initiative for inmates from the Southeast. I have been a member of CHOICES, a group of inmates who travel monthly into the local Tallahassee community and speak with at-risk youth. I served as an inmate arbitrator, suicide companion, newsletter co-editor, release preparation and re-entry facilitator, facilitator for the READING IS FUNDAMENTAL program, Lean Six Sigma, and completed vocational trainings as a Certified Dog Obedience Trainer, Business Education and Advanced Business Education. I am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Church Administration through International Christian College & Seminary.
UPDATED 6/12/18:    I have gained experience in logistics, warehousing, recycling, customer service and telemarketing all from working at UNICOR.  These skills will allow me to find gainful employment as opportunities for small business and manufacturing flourish under the Trump administration’s initiatives.

Release plan:
Upon release I will live with my daughter Nia who has her own place and wants me to spend time with her until I get on my feet and can afford my own place.  I plan to continue to mentor at-risk youth and to work within my community to promote re-entry initiatives to lower recidivism rates and promote meaningful opportunities to returning felons.  I will never return to prison unless it is to share hope about how great life can be on the other side of the fence when you prepare yourself while on the inside.  We all make mistakes.  The key is what you do with your life once you get back up.  I only need one chance to start over and I am imploring President Trump to grant my clemency to give me that chance.

According to Chalana:
Remorse is a ghost that haunts my life. It is hard to express the sorrow I feel about the choices I made that led to my incarceration. I am ashamed of my actions. It’s more than just embarrassment or regret.  Countless days I have laid in my bunk reliving my mistakes over and over. If I could go back in time, I would do so many things differently.

At first I laid the blame at the feet of all my co-conspirators. They duped me…they tricked me…they lied to me. Even though that may be partially true, at the end of the day, I am responsible for the behavior  I chose to engage in. I, solely, am responsible for my incarceration. That fact was a bitter pill to swallow. At times, I wondered if I was worthy of redemption after all the pain and embarrassment I caused my family and the harm to my community.

That said, I was the closing attorney for a mortgage fraud ring.  The judge chose to make an example of me by handing down was is still considered one of the harshest sentences for mortgage fraud in the country.  (Ironically, the same judge a year later, sentence two attorneys with similar conduct but greater monetary losses to 28 and 37 months respectively).  Even in my own case, I was sentenced nearly 4 times that of any of my co-defendants.  I came to understand that justice and fairness can be incongruent.  As an aspiring attorney, wife, and mother of a 3-year-old, my life as I knew it came to an end.

A recurrent nightmare I have is that my greatest fear comes to pass and everyone in my family dies off or forgets about me. I have seen countless friends and family members fall by the wayside over the past 12 years. My parents are in their late 70s and their health is failing. I have one daughter, who is in college now. If I lose my parents, will my daughter consider me a burden? Will I miss her graduations, wedding, and the birth of her children as I have all the other events in her life so far? She was three years old when I was sent to prison to begin serving a 30-year sentence as a first-time nonviolent offender. I committed mortgage fraud and I will be 62 years old when I am released from prison.

What kind of life would have when I am released as a senior citizen? I had hard choices to make about how I was going to survive incarceration. The first step was realizing that despite my fervent wishes, I cannot change the past. I decided to become the best person that I could be from that day forward. Prison strips you down to your true self. Every aspect of your individual identity is challenged. One must decide who one is and what one believes.

Over the last decade, I have gotten to know my true self and I like her. I have learned that family is the most important treasure you can ever have in your life and I am so thankful for mine. I also came to the realization that the world owes me nothing. I owe a debt to my daughter that can never be repaid because my choices left her motherless. I know she loves me and I pray that someday when she is old enough to grasp it all that she will forgive me.

When Pres. Obama’s clemency initiative was announced, I began to hope. I was vetted and given an attorney who filed my petition. It seemed inevitable, but to date I still have never received a response to my clemency petition despite Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’s promise that every application would be ruled upon before President Obama left office.   I was devastated but also saw so many wonderful women who were left behind, so we provided comfort to one another.  We knew God would make a way.    Now, I have renewed hope because for the first time we have a President who is listening to clemency experts and advocates.

A message from Chalana’s daughter, Nia: 

I am Nia Cosby, the daughter of Chalana McFarland. I am a sophomore at Florida A&M Univ in Tallahassee, Florida and I major in business with a concentration in accounting and finance. .I was an Honor, Advanced Placement and an International Baccalaureate student at Valdosta High School in Valdosta, GA. I was elected Junior Class President and I am also in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Leadership Lowndes, Delta Gems as well as several other clubs and organizations. I am also the founder of CHIPS (Children of Incarcerated Parents) because I am one of the thousands of children in this country who has an incarcerated parent. I am writing to express how important it is for me to have my mother at home with me.

My mother has always tried to be active in my life and has had a hand in guiding me and raising me even if only by letter and telephone. She has instilled values such as integrity, compassion, humility, and accountability in me. Yet, there were so many times, I longed for her to be with me in person. She was never able to attend any of my dance recitals, concerts, school awards, basketball games or graduations. I can remember crying for her when I was sick or not understanding why she couldn’t leave with me when we went to visit her. One time when I was about 7 or 8, I even begged the officer to let us take her to McDonald’s to eat with me and promised to bring her right back. Last year while visiting my mother, I had to remove my bra in order to visit her because the metal detector kept beeping. I spent the whole visit wearing a windbreaker buttoned up to my neck in July and crying because I was so humiliated that the officer had made me take it off in order to come in. My mother sat at the table, held my hand and tears filled her eyes as she saw my pain.

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