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

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

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

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

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