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Prisoners Granted Clemency Must Adjust To New Lives

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And let's hear now from one woman who had her sentence commuted just over a year ago. Her name is Shauna Barry-Scott, and she spent 10 years in prison.

SHAUNA BARRY-SCOTT: There is no one that can go through the U.S. prison system and come out unscathed.

MONTAGNE: She was sentenced to 20 years for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Prison, she says, was a nightmare. She saw overcrowding, medical neglect, abuse from guards. One day, she got called to the warden's office.

BARRY-SCOTT: So I said, oh, god, I'm really in big trouble now. They're sending me to the warden. So I'm sitting there and after quite awhile, my unit manager walked in and my counselor. And me and my counselor were real close. He wasn't mean like some of the other people there were. And when he walked through that door, he had this big, giant smile on his face. And when I saw his smile, it just hit me. I said, oh, my god, this must be the clemency. And sure enough, the warden started to tell me that I had received it.

MONTAGNE: Barry-Scott went home to Youngstown, Ohio, but her transition has not come easy.

BARRY-SCOTT: When you go to prison, you are stripped of every bit of your dignity, your place in society. And you'd lose, I think, some of your humanity with it. So after being gone for so long, I kind of didn't know, you know, where I fit into the scheme of things anymore.

MONTAGNE: She is figuring it out and finding solace in the small things.

BARRY-SCOTT: The other morning, I had a moment (laughter). My kids were all gone. And I made some toast and poured some coffee in a cup. And it just dawned on me that just even be able to use a toaster in my own kitchen - I was just a little overwhelmed.

MONTAGNE: Shauna Barry-Scott, she was granted clemency just over a year ago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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