Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to the women currently incarcerated in the Secure Female Facility Hazelton (SFF) through video conferencing. I was one of several panelists who spoke to the women about the available resources in the District of Columbia that can assist them with reentry.
I was dressed appropriately in my business suit with my hair pulled up trying desperately to prove to everyone at the table that I was qualified to be there. Various agencies throughout the city were represented: The Department of Human Services, The Department of Employment Services and The Department of Child and Family Services.
Each representative spoke at length about the services that they can provide to make the transition back into the community more smooth for the women. I was representing The Office on Returning Citizen Affairs.
I was the last to speak. Suddenly all of my professionalism went out the window and I began to greet the women I knew across the screen, calling some of them by their nicknames and congratulating several of them on obtaining their GEDs.
Three years ago I would have been on the other side of that screen. I can imagine how excited I would have been to learn about resources that would help me with a successful reintegration. I had such high expectations about my release that I didn’t dare imagine failing. I knew that I didn’t go through all that I had experienced in vain. I was determined to be successful. Not because I was so extraordinary, or intelligent, but because I was driven.
As I spoke to the women still incarcerated about the challenges of reentry, I encouraged them to have realistic expectations. I told them that it would not be easy, but I also told them that I, along with the city, would support them wholeheartedly. They were concerned about the advances in technology, obtaining employment, housing, and family reunification.
Seeing them was bitter sweet. I served a lot of time with those women. They are my sisters. I want for them what I want for myself and I hope and pray that I can assist them with reintegration, rebuilding and becoming. It will be a joy to witness their development.
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