Texans can sleep more soundly at night knowing that Elisa Castillo, agrandmother and nonviolent first-time drug offender, is serving a life without parole sentence in Fort Worth. Yes, you read that right — the latest casualty of our War on Drugs is a grandmother who never even touched the drugs that sent her to prison. Though she may not look like public enemy No. 1, our persistently illogical criminal justice system has determined that this harsh punishment fits her crime. The truth, though, is that her fate was sealed, in large part because she didn’t have a card to play when negotiating her sentence.
Convicted in a drug-smuggling conspiracy, 56-year-old Castillo maintains that she didn’t know she was being used as a pawn in a cocaine trafficking operation between Mexico and Houston. Given her alleged role as a low-level player in the conspiracy, it makes sense that she was not privy to — and therefore could not provide — any valuable information to federal agents that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the leaders or other high level members of the alleged conspiracy. Since she was of no help to the government, Castillo received the harshest sentence of the approximately 68 people involved in the scheme, despite being a first-time offender who never saw the drugs she was accused of trafficking.