What ever happened to Sara Jane? Post-prison, Olson finds a cause in cocaine laws

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Sara Jane Olson, the Minnesota woman who served seven years in prison for her involvement in the high-profile 1970s Symbionese Liberation Army, has thrust herself back into the public sphere as she petitions the Obama administration to reduce disparities in prison sentences for crack and powder cocaine.

The Associated Press had a sit-down with the former Kathleen Soliah, who spent 25 years as a fugitive after joining the the SLA, the small group best known for the 1974 kidnapping of California heiress Patty Hearst.

Olson lives in the St. Paul home where she was captured in 1999, and has teamed with her neighbor Mary McLeod in filing a petition Thursday asking the president to exercise executive clemency for prisoners serving time under now-discarded sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine. In 2010, Congress cut those sentences to align more closely with those for powder cocaine, but that only applied to new sentences going forward. The women’s petition says that left more than 5,000 prisoners still serving time longer than the new rules would require, the AP reports.

Olson tells the AP that it was her incarceration--in she pleaded guilty to helping place pipe bombs under Los Angeles police cars and participating in a bank robbery near Sacramento that killed a woman--that drew her interest in the cause.

“The war on drugs is a politically convenient peg on which to hang a lot of things, and that has been done by a lot of politicians,” Olson, now 66, said in the interview, which was in McLeod's living room.

Aside from all that, Olson didn't reveal much about her past, or about what's new since she was freed and returned home after her 2009 parole from a California prison. But, in a surreal moment of American pop culture, we do know that her daughter Sophia Shorai was a contestant on American Idol two years ago.

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