I Deserved To Be Punished, But Why Can’t I Be Forgiven?

I remember reading a story about how the people in one African village respond to the bad deeds of others. Interestingly, in that Village, when someone commits a crime or a sin, that person is placed in the middle of a circle and the villagers tell all of the great things about that particular man or woman. That was a very long time ago and I never forgot that story. When you are a person who has been publicly persecuted for a crime you yearn for public forgiveness. You yearn to have the Continue reading

My Crimes Should Not Define Me Forever, But They Will

When I was incarcerated I took an Inside Out College course. A group of my peers and I met with a group of West Virginia University students once a week to discuss collateral punishments and reentry. I will never forget reading a piece on a Returning Citizen (That is what we are called now) who said that “From the Gavel to the Grave” he will be paying for the crime he committed. He was speaking of the harsh reality that people will never let you forget your past. Moreover, some people will never let themselves off the hook for Continue reading

When Prison Becomes Your Life, Even Your Dreams Are Locked

Saturday I spent all day in prison. I went to visit 150 inmates at a Woman’s Conference in a correctional institution in Maryland. Of the 800 women housed there these women are the ones that are preparing for release. I took several members of The W.I.R.E. (Women Involved in Reentry Efforts) with me. The W.I.R.E. is a network of previously incarcerated women who have successfully integrated into society after incarceration. One of the members of The W.I.R.E. was actually released from the Maryland Correctional Institution after serving 10 years. She knew almost everyone at the Woman’s Conference. She introduced me to Continue reading

While I Was In Prison, My Daughter Was in Hell

I went to prison when I was 19 years old. My daughter was left alone to practically raise herself in the same environment that almost destroyed me. I survived only because prison saved me. Women are the fastest growing group of people who are becoming incarcerated. In most cases these women are single parents and therefore, the primary care givers of their children. Once they are imprisoned their children are almost destined to a life of depression, crime, drugs and/or violence. I asked my daughter to write about life growing up in the turbulent streets of S.E., D.C. the progeny of a mom who was a “Menace to Society.” She writes: Continue reading

My Years Being Locked Up Were Harder On My Children

My daughter, Charnal is 23 years old. She was three years old when I went to prison. When I came home she was 21 years old.  She is one of over 100,000 children who have mothers in prison. She is very intelligent, articulate and courageous, so I asked her to share with the world what her experience was like growing up with a mother in prison. As I told her about the topics she could explore she began to take notes. I noticed for the first time that she Continue reading

The Trauma of Prison Hasn’t Affected Me, Except How It’s Affected Me

I recently attended a trauma workshop sponsored by SAMSHA. The facilitator told a story about a lab rat who spent its whole life, born and bred, in a lab. The rat had a high activity level during the first phases of his life. Then, cat hair was inserted into that lab rat’s cage. His activity level reduced significantly. The striking thing is that the rat’s activity level went up again after the cat hair was removed, but never to the high level that was common early in its life. I was struck by the severe impact of Continue reading

Incarcerated Women and Sex; Situational Homosexuality

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. Brian is a man who spent almost two decades in prison in intervals in between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. That was 20 years ago and it always amazes me as to how in the blink of an eye he relives those moments. When he talks about the days when he was incarcerated he seems to slip into a trance-like state and recollect memories so vividly and clear. Yesterday we were talking about the sexual deprivation in prison and how it Continue reading

Ex-Cons Don’t Always Look Like Ex-Cons; Look Around You

The other day I met a young woman who is in the process of completing her probation/supervision. She is 19 years old. When she told me she was on probation, I asked, “What did you do?” She replied, “Something stupid.” I couldn’t resist the temptation to disclose my personal status to her. I calmly stated, “When I was 19 years old I went to prison and I ended up staying incarcerated for 18 years.” Her face registered disbelief. She was such a pretty little girl. I was a pretty little girl myself. In fact, some might say I grew up to be a pretty woman. Continue reading

There Are No Holidays in Prison and That’s Just Fine

With the Summer Holidays coming to an End and the Winter Holidays Approaching I can’t help but reflect on how I spent my Labor Day Holiday.

I am Lashonia Etheridge-Bey. I survived 18.5 years of incarceration. I say that not as a badge of honor, or as a victim, but simply as one fact of my life. At age 39 I guess it’s safe to say I spent ½ my life in prison. Continue reading