Rose Ella Summers


Sentence: 24 Years, 4 Months

Offense: Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine, Money Laundering

Priors: First Offense 

Time Served: 20 Years 

Left Behind: 1 Son 

“It feels like being buried alive,” Rose Ella Summers told me in an email after visiting her the previous day at Carswell Federal Prison when she couldn’t adequately sum up the feeling of spending most of her life incarcerated. “That is the only description without you really being there but only imagining how trapped and miserably hopeless the situation is,” she said.

Summers childhood, like so many other incarcerated women, was checkered with abuse and neglect. Raised in a household where drug transactions were common, Summers constantly sought the love of a mother who would “brainwash” her into justifying the illegal activities. “I’m not a drug dealer,” Summers would tell herself, only using the proceeds of the drugs sales to pay for college and other necessities. She had been kicked out of her house by her mother at the age of 17, and had no choice but to move in with her boyfriend where she soon became a victim of domestic violence. With nowhere else to turn, Summers was forced to move back in with her mother to escape the physical abuse where soon thereafter, she was coerced into moving in and becoming romantically involved with her drug supplier.

After becoming pregnant, Summers sought to escape the toxic environment which she found herself in, moving across the country to Alabama to raise her son. So she was blindsided when federal agents came calling with handcuffs, accusing her of a leadership role in the drug operation which she had tried so ardently to distance herself from. The mother of a five month old son was now, according to prosecutors, the head of an international drug smuggling ring, with her mother and son’s father taking plea deals for shorter sentences, leaving her to bear the brunt of the responsibility.

Faced with a choice of testifying against her mother and taking a plea or rolling the dice with a jury, Summers couldn’t bring herself to put her mother in, despite all the childhood turmoil. But she also didn’t know she could face a life sentence, despite being arrested for a first time, non-violent offense. “If I would have testified against my mom, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Summers recalls. “I have had to live with the decision to not testify all these years and the guilt of leaving my own son.”

Sentenced to almost 25 years, Summers has spend 20 years in prison and is scheduled the get out in the fall of 2018. While incarcerated, Summers has earned two college degrees while inside and has been a model prisoner. In addition to advancing her education, Summers has also been a Hospice volunteer at Carswell and was elected by the prison’s warden to speak to at risk females for a community outreach program for five years. Despite all of her accolades and clear signs of rehabilitation, Summers was denied clemency in November of 2014. 

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