After 15 Years In Prison, A Mother Gets To Know Her Daughter Again

Michael Reese, Courtesy of StoryCorps

Last month, Nia Cosby, left, and her mother Chalana McFarland spent their first weekend together in 15 years at McFarland's home in Marietta, Ga., after she was released from a Florida prison.

Nia Cosby was just 4 years old when her mother was sent to prison.

In 2005, her mom, Chalana McFarland, was sentenced to 30 years for multiple counts of mortgage fraud. The judge in her case went on record to say he was giving her a harsh sentence as a deterrent for those wishing to commit similar crimes.

But last month — in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in Florida prisons — Cosby got to welcome her mother back from the Federal Correctional Institution, Coleman facility in central Florida.

On their first weekend together in 15 years, they recorded a conversation for StoryCorps at Chalana’s home in Marietta, Ga.

“My grandmother used to say that my mother was at a camp,” Cosby, now 20, said. “It wasn’t until I was older and I kind of just started putting two and two together.”

Over the years, McFarland would give her time to mentor fellow inmates, her daughter said. “I think the biggest thing that she’s taught me is, even when you feel like you can’t help anybody else, you can still can try to make a difference in other people’s lives,” Cosby said.

McFarland, 52, will serve the remainder of her sentence at home. “I can’t wait for you to discover just how much alike we really are,” McFarland told her daughter. “Out of all the things that I’ve done in my life, all the accomplishments that I’ve had over the years, you are the absolute one thing that I got right.”

You can listen to the full interview at the audio link.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Von Diaz.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

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