Youth Violence in the District of Columbia – A Culture of Crime

I’ve been pondering how I could help society understand the dynamics of youth violence and the anesthetic attitude young people tend to have toward violence, death and crime. I can imagine that for some people this notion is foreign. I remember participating in an Alternative to Violence Project while I was incarcerated, and someone mentioned that there are actually people in the world who would not stoop to violence even if their life depended on it. I was stunned. How is that possible, I wondered? Adaptation is the greatest technique of survival known to Continue reading

Public Perceptions and Re-Entry: How Society Views Criminals Who They Don’t Know Personally

Last week I took my car to the dealer on my lunch break. It was making a weird noise. After discovering that my fan belt needed to be replaced, I got nervous. I only get 30 minutes for lunch. I asked the office manager at the dealership to allow me to use the telephone to call my boss and tell him I might be out a bit longer. When I hung up the phone we got into a conversation about the work I do with men and women returning from incarceration. As I began to Continue reading

Violence, Crime and Self-Esteem

I’m so grateful that God does not waste time when it’s time for me to learn what I need to learn. The very day I arrived to the transitional house after being released from incarceration the women of the house were engrossed in a self-esteem class. Before unpacking my bags I decided to sit in on the class. They were talking about the messages we hear and how they affect our self-esteem. I spoke in the class about how I heard such great things about the group from Continue reading

Understanding Youth Violence

The other day I was honored to address an audience of formerly incarcerated women at a woman’s conference who are in the beginning stages of the reentry process. Before I was introduced, they had an opportunity to view Time Zone, a documentary about the first year of my release. Watching Time Zone, along with an audience for the first time, was overwhelming to say the least. Oftentimes I look back and I Continue reading

Now That I am Out Of Prison, When Will I Stop Feeling Caged?

It’s a new year, and I’ve been home for two years now, yet I still find myself unable to sit with myself. I still don’t go home until I know I’m exhausted and ready for bed. I still feel like an energizer bunny every time my feet hit the floor in the morning. When is it gonna end? I keep telling myself that this will change when I move into a larger space. Right now the space I’m living in is small. It’s cozy, but there’s not much space to move around. In fact, it’s one room. When I move, I plan to create an oasis in my “living room.” I want candles burning, fresh flowers permeating, soft music playing, and Continue reading

I’m Not Who I Use To Be

On Christmas Day I had the opportunity to see one of my sisters for the first time in over two decades. She lives three hours away from where I am based in Washington, DC. I never saw her while I was incarcerated, and even though I was released in 2011, she was not able to come to see me until now. When she walked into my mom’s house, I screamed, hugged her and asked jokingly, “Where have you been all my life?” She replied Continue reading

Missing Traditions

I wish I had some traditions to engage in during this holiday season. Even though I was in prison for 18 years I have been home for two years now. It seems like it’s time to begin building some traditions, practicing some customs. Only, I don’t know where to begin. I feel especially lonely this time of year. It’s not because I can’t be with others, but more because Continue reading

Second Chances

Today marks my second anniversary since I was released from Federal Prison. I am so grateful for a second chance to be a part of society. I am especially grateful to all of my friends and family members who have helped me learn to live again after 18 years in prison. I might not be where I want to be, but I am not where I used to be. I am still a work in progress. Continue reading

Imagine!

Imagine you are abducted into a cult, you wake up the next day with a whole new set of norms and rules to follow, you don’t know anyone around you, and everyone is dressed alike. You find yourself enclosed in a small community with a school and a church on the compound. What if you stayed there for years then, one day, someone opened the gate to the community you were living in and Continue reading

Being Ready To Change

More times than I can count I have been asked, “To what do you attribute your successful Reentry?”  I think people see me as the exception to the rule so they expect some extraordinary response. The fact of the matter is that my successful rehabilitation while incarcerated has led to my successful reintegration into society. My Creator deserves the Glory for enabling me to grow, change and reform to the extent that I have. It was no coincidence that I Continue reading