An Oklahoma woman is free this weekend after 15 years behind bars for child abuse. The abuse was inflicted on her children by her boyfriend, but she was convicted under Oklahoma's controversial "Failure to Protect" law.
Tondalao Hall's first taste of freedom came in the form of the first hug from her family in 15 years.
"Blessed to be with my family," Hall said. "Blessed just to be with my family."
Her son, Robert, hadn't touched his mother since he was one.
"It's great, you know?" said Robert. "I'm seeing she's got freedom."
As a teenage mother, Hall never reported her boyfriend was battering two of her kids. She pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse. Her sentence was 30 years. Robert Braxton Jr., her boyfriend at the time, admitted the abuse, which included broken bones. His sentence was 10 years. He served two.
Last month, Hall pleaded her case before Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board. They heard her ex-boyfriend had abused and terrorized her, too.
Hall explained, "I've worked really hard to be the woman that my children need me to be."
The parole board agreed unanimously to commute her sentence. Time served.
Oklahoma has America's highest incarceration rate for women – about twice the national average.
More than half of the state's female inmates are survivors of domestic assault or sexual violence.
"Her case is not unique," Megan Lambert, an attorney with the ACLU of Oklahoma said. "Because there are so many other women who were also victims of domestic violence who are incarcerated on failure to protect charges with far longer sentences than the actual abuser."
Hall wants to make up for lost time with her three teenage children.
Hall's family raised her children while she was behind bars. She earned her GED and her cosmetology license and feels equipped to be the mother she wanted to be all along.
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