Tracy Cowan - Michigan
Sentence: 20 to 40 years
Offense: Delivery/manufacture over 650 grams cocaine; two counts possessing a firearm during a felony, delivery/manufacture marijuana
Year sentenced: 2003
Age at sentencing: 41
Projected release date: Dec. 18, 2025
Tracy was raised in the Detroit area. Though her parents eventually separated, she enjoyed a happy childhood and discovered her passion for education and childcare early on. By age of 40, Tracy had started a family, earned her Associates Degree and a Bachelor’s degree in business, and had a successful childcare career with plans to open a business of her own. She was also a community leader, volunteering with many organizations to improve life in her neighborhood. Tracy, a single mother, was raising her three children, along with foster children and her grandchildren.
Tracy was also looking after her former boyfriend’s son and had given the ex-boyfriend house keys and an unused bedroom so he could visit his child. In return, he would give her grocery money. Tracy was aware that her ex-boyfriend had connections to the drug business, but she never imagined he would let anyone bring drugs inside her residence.
In September 2002, Detroit police arranged for a confidential informant (CI) to purchase cocaine from a local drug dealer. The CI and the dealer drove to two residences and a gas station before ending up at the dealer’s house, where he sold the CI $220 worth of cocaine. One of the houses they stopped at was the Cowan residence. Tracy was not home at the time the dealer entered the house.
Later that day, officers searched Tracy’s house and found 1,581.3 grams of cocaine, 460.2 grams of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and two firearms. The drugs were found in the unused cellar and the guns were in a locked bedroom closet. Tracy readily admitted possessing the guns for protection after two home burglaries, but denied any knowledge of the drugs. Though her fingerprints were not found on any of the drugs or drug paraphernalia, Tracy was held accountable for everything.
She went to trial and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years for over 650 grams of cocaine. She also received six months to four years for the marijuana charge and two years for the gun charges. The drug dealer that was the target of the investigation fled and was only recently apprehended. State charges against two of Tracy’s co-defendants, including her ex-boyfriend, were dismissed. Despite a clean record and no evidence proving that she sold drugs, Tracy received a veritable life sentence.
Michigan instituted major sentencing reforms in 1998 and 2003 to change the mandatory minimum drug laws that former Governor William Milliken called “the greatest mistake of my career.” Unfortunately, Tracy is not eligible to benefit from the reforms because of the date she was arrested.
Since her incarceration, Tracy has served as a law library and re-entry clerk, Vice-President of the National Lifers of America organization, chairperson of the Restorative Committee and is an active member of her church. She excels in her University of Michigan courses, volunteers as a GED tutor and works with prisoners who have special education needs. Tracy hopes to take care of her elderly mother and continue to dedicate her time to supporting her family and community when she is released.