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

Rebuilding Bonds After Incarceration: Things Are Nothing Like We Imagined They Would Be

My daughter was three years old when I became incarcerated. By the time I was released she was 21 years old. I think we both had illusions about how things would be when I came home. I thought I would be spending all of my spare time with my children. I thought I would be babysitting my grandchildren and maybe even living with my children. I thought we would get to know one another and build a bond for once in our lives. To my surprise I 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

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

I Thought I Could Help My Daughter From Inside Prison, But I Could Not

When I was incarcerated I sought to help guide my children in any way that I could through letters, phone calls and visits. More than anything I wanted them to know that they were loved. When I came home I thought things would be different. I thought our relationships would be stronger. It seems that my lack of parenting and social skills has impeded my relationships with my children. It seems that I have not been able to measure up and be the mother I thought I could be. Seeking to find a balance between rebuilding my life and rebuilding my relationships has proven to be the single greatest challenge for me after returning from 18 years of incarceration. Not finding a job, being on parole, or Continue reading

Keeping Children From Parents in Prison Tortures The Children

When I read the headline “Sesame Street creates first Muppet to have a parent in prison” I was in awe. I was in awe because the incarceration rate in America has become so astronomical that Sesame Street has taken up the task of helping children with a parent in prison understand and cope with their feelings. Sesame Street is as mainstream as mainstream gets. I saw a few clips of Alex’s dilemma. He was talking to his peers about his father being incarcerated: the anger, the shame, the guilt. One media clip stated that 1 in 28 children have a parent in prison. Not long ago my two children who are now Continue reading