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

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