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

Jul 24, 2020
Originally published on July 24, 2020 7:03 am

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's time now for StoryCorps. In 2005, Chalana McFarland was sentenced to 30 years in prison for mortgage fraud. Her daughter, Nia Cosby, was just 4 years old at the time.

NIA COSBY: My grandmother used to say that my mother was at a camp. And it wasn't until I was older and I kind of just started putting two and two together. But I definitely have a lot of positive moments when I think about her. She used to make me notebooks and lunchboxes. And at visitation, she would practice cursive with me. Throughout my mom being incarcerated, she has had so many people that she has mentored or helped out. So I think the biggest thing that she's taught me is even when you feel like you can't help anybody else, you still can try to make a difference in other people's lives.

MARTIN: Last month, Nia got her mother back. Chalana was released as part of Florida's effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in prisons. On their first weekend together in 15 years, they recorded a conversation for StoryCorps.

CHALANA MCFARLAND: I just threw my hands up in the air and said, thank you, God. And then I got the notice that I would be leaving June the 9. But it was bittersweet. You're fortunate that you're getting out and you're going to be safe. But you worry about those that you leave behind. My friends had come out to wave bye. And we have this ritual where we hold our mirrors up and we flash the mirror in the sunlight so that you can see they were applauding you as you're leaving.

COSBY: I remember I ran up to you. And it was probably one of the best moments of my life.

MCFARLAND: Oh, my goodness. I was so happy to see you. And then you were driving. I'm like, when I left, you were driving the Barbie car. And now you're flexing in the Honda Accord. I was like, wow. You know, we've had a relationship over the years. But it's like pieces of a puzzle that we're just now putting together. And I can't wait for you to discover just how much alike we really are because you haven't really gotten to know who I am. But I see so much of me in you. And 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.

MARTIN: Chalana McFarland and her daughter, Nia Cosby. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.