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FILM: Pandemic adds urgency to Missouri grandmother's pleas for clemency

FILM: Pandemic adds urgency to Missouri grandmother's pleas for clemency

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33 and Counting film poster

"33 and Counting" a film by Aisha Sultan

Patty Prewitt, a 70-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence in Vandalia, Mo., is recovering from her latest bout of bronchitis. 

She also takes blood pressure medicine. These conditions, along with her age, make her among the most vulnerable population if infected with COVID-19. The spread of the pandemic prompted us to forgo the film festival premiere of this documentary about Prewitt. It's a story that raises questions about whether justice was served in her case and how she's managed to hold onto hope despite spending 33 years in prison for a murder she says her rapist committed. 

In prison, she has been sewing masks for the staff to wear. She has told her adult children to be prepared that she may contract the coronavirus and die in prison. 

"Just know that I'll finally be free," she said. 

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The Missouri Senate should pass a measure approved by the House on Thursday allowing prisoners age 65 and older who have served at least 30 years of a life sentence to apply for parole. These prisoners are least at risk for recidivism and were sentenced under much harsher, often unjust guidelines. The measure would save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care costs

Patty Prewitt is a 69-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence for the murder of her husband in 1984. She has been in prison for nearly 33 years and has maintained her innocence since the beginning. Lots of prisoners adamantly protest their innocence, but her case is so compelling that even the former director of the Missouri Department of Corrections asks that her sentence be commuted.

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