Maryland’s longest serving female inmate denied parole twice tests positive for COVID-19

Ama Nunoo May 12, 2020 at 10:00am

May 12, 2020 at 10:00 am | News

Ama Nunoo

Ama Nunoo | Staff Writer

May 12, 2020 at 10:00 am | News

Eraina Pretty, ABC News’ A Hidden America: Women Behind Bars and the Families They Left Behind,2015 Photo: YouTube/ Baltimore Sun

The longest serving female innate in Maryland has tested positive for COVID-19 and her daughter and other advocates want her released. Eraina Pretty was incarcerated at age 18 and has spent 42 years of her 60-year sentence for a vicious crime.

She has transformed into an exemplary character for her fellow inmates. Her ‘good’ behavior made her eligible for parole, but was denied her chance of an earlier release by two governors.

The daughter of this reformed inmate who has tested positive for COVID-19 together with a group of advocates from the University of Maryland School of law is fighting for an early release.

The 60-year-old native of Baltimore had a harsh childhood, coming from a poor home and abused. She crossed paths with a man five years her senior in 1978, Pretty was 18 years at the time.

This man committed two terrible crimes. The robberies and execution-style killings of Preston Cornish, a social worker, and Louis Thomas, the owner of an all-night grocery store and the father of four children, Baltimore Sun reported.

Although Pretty did not directly pull the trigger, her boyfriend at the time did and she became an accomplice. “She allegedly disposed of the murder weapon in the Cornish case and, two months later, helped set up the armed robbery that ended with Thomas’s murder in his Reisterstown Road store.”

That same year Pretty and her boyfriend and one other accomplice pleaded guilty to first-degree murder among other charges and were sentenced to life with an additional 15 years. She has been behind bars at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup ever since her sentence.

Kecha Dunn, Pretty’s daughter heard of her mother’s diagnosis via Facebook and confirmed it from the prison’s warden. Dunn has since then been working with attorney Lila Meadows and Professor Leigh Goodmark in an attempt to convince Gov. Larry Hogan to commute Pretty’s sentence. Hogan is one of the two governors who did not approve the parole board’s plea for Pretty’s release.

“We are submitting a request to the governor asking that he commute Ms. Pretty’s sentence and release her,” Goodmark said. “The governor can grant that request on his own at any time. We continue to be very concerned about her health.”

However, the reasons for both governors denying Pretty’s parole on the two occasions is not quite clear, but this is not the first time such a request was denied in Maryland. A Governor in Maryland has the power to reject a parole commission’s recommendation to release a man or woman serving a life sentence.

“Most, of the men on the 50-plus list… were recommended for parole at some point but rejected by governors.”

Hogan nonetheless ordered Maryland prisons to expedite the release of prisoners with non-violent crimes to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus among inmates. Sadly, Pretty is in jail for a violent crime and is not eligible for release under the governor’s directives.

Many are of the belief that Pretty’s case is a unique one that needs special considerations by the governors because she has been cleared twice by a parole board for release. Her fellow inmates are full of praises when it comes to Pretty. Those who are still under incarceration and released on parole alike.

According to the sun, they say they are “grateful for Pretty’s guidance behind bars,” as well as a former warden who lauded Pretty for her “quiet leadership among inmates.”

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