Open Letter We All Need to Consider

This is a letter from Maria Lloyd to Judge Marvin Aspen who sentenced her father to 15 life sentences for her father’s first nonviolent offense.  This matter, matters like them, and all the “legal” issues related therein, are becoming matters of faith for me.  I’d love to know what you think.  I’d love, simply, to have you thinking of this as I am.

Dear Judge Marvin E. Aspen:

It took me some time to address you because I didn’t know you were the source of my anger until recently. In case you care to know who I am, I’m Maria Lloyd- the daughter of Mario Lloyd, the non-violent, first-time offender from Chicago. You sentenced him to 15 life sentences without parole on May 11, 1989. He has been incarcerated since I was the age of two. In addition to sending my father to prison, you also sentenced my grandmother, my aunt, and my uncle.  You basically incarcerated my entire family.

I’m not one to make excuses for anyone’s poor decisions, including those of my own family. They broke the law, so they deserved punishment. I get it.  I also get the point you were proving in punishing them: Drug trafficking is not tolerated in the state of Illinois. It’s quite obvious you were taking a very personal stand against the War on Drugs. Well, as you can imagine, I have too, but I’m sure our views differ.

Even if one argues that my family deserved to go to prison for the distribution of drugs, does my father deserve to be incarcerated for life? Do you really think he deserves to die in prison? My four siblings and I have literally faced hell because of our father’s incarceration. I truly believe my eldest brother, who is now deceased, wouldn’t have diedat the hands of violence if my father wasn’t incarcerated.

You have no idea how much embarrassment, confusion, and heartache a child faces when handed an Emergency Contact Form requesting contact information for mom and dad. For years, I’d write my father’s name and ask my mom if I could write the prison’s information on the lines requesting his address and phone number. “Daddy-Daughter” socials were the worst. Instead of enjoying the festivities, I would stay home in shame because of my father’s incarceration. I’m still haunted by those experiences to this very day, and I have yet to recover emotionally.

I can’t believe the word “Honorable” is placed before your name and title. What’s honorable about your work? Nothing. Because of you, I haven’t recited the Pledge of Allegiance in years. Liberty and justice aren’t for “all”, it’s reserved exclusively for the wealthy which are generally of European descent.

I know my dad deserved to be punished for his crimes- I accept that.  But, for a non-violent, first time offense, 15 life sentences is far too harsh.  By giving a life sentence to my father, you also sentenced me to a lifetime of misery that comes from losing the man I’ve loved since birth.   My father has spent 23 years of my life in prison.  Now, I pray that men like you will never be allowed to ruin a family again. To be honest, I don’t wish hardship upon you but I definitely don’t wish you well.


Maria Lloyd

I found the letter here.


  1. “I’m not one to make excuses for anyone’s poor decisions, including those of my own family. They broke the law, so they deserved punishment. I get it.”
    Clearly, Ms. Lloyd does not believe that her father deserves 15 life sentences without possibility of parole. Yet, she states that some punishment is deserved.

    A question for you and for Ms. Lloyd:
    What is the appropriate punishment for leading a multi-million dollar cocaine distribution scheme?

    I disagree about the non-violent nature of Mr. Lloyd’s crimes. While he may not have been accused of committing violence, is it not reasonable to assume that a great many violent offenses were committed on his behalf, at his behest, or as a result of his drug distribution?

    Nonetheless, it is definitely damning to see the impact wrought upon children and families as a consequent result of crime and the justice system. Without knowing more facts or the people involved, I cannot say whether rehabilitation would have worked. But I do know that the War on Drugs is broken, and that the default position of the justice system is punitive rather than rehabilitative/restorative. And that’s a problem.



    1. Josh, I wouldn’t pretend to know what a fair sentence would be in this case. And since I don’t know the facts of the case, let me hurry to say that’s not the essential piece for me at this point. I’m concerned about the impact of his sentence on his family. I’m concerned about the fairness in sentencing standards and about the laws that judges must use to put their sentences forward. I’m concerned about how justice is still more selective than not since there are likely numerous people selling drugs (of various amounts) who won’t be arrested. Most of the people who will be arrested look like me. I’m concerned about a few other things. I’m learning more about this so that I’m continually informed about the statements I make. So, I’ll share as I learn. I’m not going to law school for sure, but this feels more like an area worth giving attention to.



      1. I agree with you that the racial component of arrests and prosecution is pretty egregious. (Consider that casual drug use is roughly the same between city & suburbs, but that arrest/conviction/incarceration rates in the ‘burbs are much lower, and you can clearly point to some sense of racial bias…)

        And I would go further and opine that those who commit ‘white collar’ crimes that similarly affect the lives and well-being of dozens/hundreds of people ought to be punished strictly as well. It’s painful to me to see poor people of color punished to the full extent of the law while those who are white and rich get away with crime. Simply not just.

        I remain conflicted. Clearly the negative impact of Mr. Lloyd’s conviction on his family was great. But that was not the consequence of the justice system or laws, per se, so much as it was the consequences of his own actions. Yes, we can work to make laws and prosecutions more just.

        But does the enforcement of the rule of law indicate injustice?


  2. It depends on the law, doesn’t it, Josh? If a law is unjust, then enforcement of that law would indicate injustice. That’s partly what the civil rights era (and its relatives) was about. I think it can be true when it comes to sentencing, profiling, prison terms, and so forth.



  3. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s
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    1. Thank you for (re)visiting, Toya. If you like, you can subscribe on the blog’s homepage so that new posts come to your inbox. Otherwise, I’ll hear from you when you stop by and comment in the future. I’m glad for your delight and glad you found the blog.



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