I am going to be on Cable Television soon. I will be one of four “successful reentrants” who will be featured on the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) television show to discuss incarceration and reentry with the Director of CSOSA.
I am honored that I was asked to sit on a panel with an activist, a college graduate and a self-employed entertainer, all subjects of the broadcast, who have all been formerly incarcerated.
During the pre-broadcast taping, one of the gentlemen spoke about spending 11 years in segregation. I was astounded. Even after serving 18 years in prison I cannot fathom how one has the mental capacity to be caged in a cell for over a decade and emerge with their sanity and the fortitude to succeed.
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We spoke at length about the challenges of reentry: family reunification and unrealistic expectations with regards to broken relationships. We spoke about the barriers to employment and housing, and one woman even spoke about the trauma of giving birth while incarcerated hand cuffed to a bed.
The emotion was still raw and real, and she was released over 5 years ago. One of the gentlemen spoke about having the ability to re-create his character after living a criminal lifestyle and building an image of an outlaw. He had to unlearn and relearn what it means to be a man in today’s urban community. His values were distorted.
Somehow through it all, the moderator, the Director of CSOSA, — the very agency that supervises each of us on parole — managed to keep the conversation lively, optimistic, inspiring and upbeat.
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Interestingly, deep down inside, I don’t feel “successful” at all. Even when I look at all that I have accomplished I don’t feel that I have “succeeded.” I am grateful for where I am today, but admittedly, I am not able to stop measuring my life today against the tyrant I once was.
I was a violent, delinquent. I was a poor excuse for a mother, daughter and sibling. I was destructive and negative. I’m not quite sure what I will have to do to feel successful after that journey. I do know that all that I have accomplished today seems like a drop in the bucket in contrast with what I long to achieve.
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