A mother’s lesson
DeAndre Rogers is the latest example of District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s harsh charging and sentencing decisions
Earlier this month, I graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with my bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in sociology. My daughter and two granddaughters were by my side. At 46, getting my degree was the culmination of decades of struggle, hard work and dedication. It should have been my happiest moment. But one thing was missing: My son, DeAndre Rogers, was not by my side.
Only bars could have kept him away from me that day, and bars are exactly what have: DeAndre is serving 30 years to life in prison. Not because he killed someone, not because he robbed someone or hurt someone. DeAndre faces the rest of his life in prison because he had a gun. In a rap video.
This is our hell now.
My son DeAndre is a beautiful human being. He is a loving son, a devoted father and a committed partner to his wife. More than that, DeAndre was a child when he committed the crime of having a gun. Although 24 years of age in body, DeAndre was like so many other boys his age—an adult under the law but an adolescent at heart. He turned to me for advice about matters large and small. He called me everyday, both to talk with me but also for the reassurance of hearing my voice. Even when he lived on his own, or with the mother of my beautiful granddaughter, DeAndre came to my house every chance he could to spend time with me, his mama. He lived in the body of a man, but had the same heart that he had when he was a 3-year-old toddler, a 10-year-old boy and a 15-year-old adolescent. But my son will not get to come to my house to spend time with me anymore, and his flood of phone calls have been reduced to a trickle.
DeAndre is the latest example of District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s harsh charging and sentencing decisions. DA Schubert charged my son’s gun possession as “gang related.” Not because he used the gun in a dangerous or violent way, but because Schubert’s office decided that the gun “enhanced the reputation” of a gang, a ridiculous and standardless claim. But one with devastating consequences: Because of the way that DeAndre was charged, his judge had no choice but to impose a sentence of 30 years to life; she could not give him less time.
Schubert did not have to charge DeAndre that way. She could have taken his youth into account, she could have declined to charge a gang enhancement, she could have recognized that one of DeAndre’s other “strikes” was also for nonviolent gun possession. But mercy is not this office’s message so far. The district attorney’s office has become more and more aggressive, even as crime in our city is on the decline.
Even though Sacramento accounts for less than 1.3 percent of California’s population, it is now responsible for 4.5 percent of its felony cases and 5.1 percent of the state’s felony convictions, according to a 2016 report from the Judicial Council of California. From 2014 to 2016, Sacramento’s prison incarceration rate rose from 336 per 1,000 felony arrests to a 558, far exceeding the state average of 446, according to the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice’s California Sentencing Institute. Crime is down, but new felony admissions to state prison are up.
Our district attorneys have too much power. Too many of our children are going to prison, and for far too long. It is time for Schubert to change her policies, but until she does, I am lobbying for the People’s Fair Sentencing and Public Safety Act of 2018, which will make it harder for prosecutors to lock up our children for life based on old or non-violent convictions.
I hope it’s not too late for my baby, but I know it’s not too late for the thousands of others throughout Sacramento County. No mother should lose their child based on the simple possession of anything—even a gun.