Deneise Quintanilla

Sentence: Life (Received Clemency)

Offense: Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine

Priors: Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute Cocaine

Time Served: 16 Years

Left Behind: 2 Sons, 1 Daughter

Deneise Quintanilla breaks down in tears as she looks at a picture of her and her daughter from more than a decade before. “This was the last vacation we took as a family before I was locked up,” she said. Initially sentenced to life in prison, Quintanilla can’t think about the time she had to tell her family she was never coming home without crying. Having served more than 16 years already, there was no reason to believe her case would end any other way.

That is, until Quintanilla was granted clemency by President Obama in January 2017. So getting to tell her family that she would be home after all was “beyond words” that she could express. “My gratitude towards President Obama is beyond anything I can say.”

Quintanilla credits finding God with her change in attitude that led her to seeking redemption as a model inmate, rather than lashing out at the injustice of serving a life sentence for non-violent drug crimes. “I was broken when I came in here,” she said. “We all make mistakes but these punishments don’t fit the crime.”

Quintanilla walked out of Carswell Federal Prison on May 17, 2017, and found her daughter and grandson waiting for her. With no words spoken, only tears, Quintanilla embraced the family she’s missed so much time with, relishing in the opportunity to play a role in her grandson’s life after being taken from her children. “Nobody can replace a mother,” she said. 

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