My Life Now
Prison! Like most people on the "outside" or "free-world", I had seen news reports about prison which helped form my ideas about the people and the conditions. Nothing I had ever seen or heard could prepare me for the reality of prison life.
The daily humiliation, isolation, and stress can't be described with words. Some things must be experienced to be believed.
Upon arriving in prison you are told to strip all your clothes off. You then must squat and cough, facing both frontwards and backwards. While still naked, you are walked to a bank of shower heads where you are told to bathe while the guards watch you. The point to this is to dehumanize you, to show you that you are no longer somebody, but are now something. From this point on, you are just a number, an offender. Strip searches are an everyday occurrence.
By the time I reached the Mountain View Unit, I was beginning to recover from the drug stupor I had been in at the county jail. I was housed in a dorm with 33 other women. My first job was in the kitchen where I stayed for three years. I began trying to learn not only the written "prison" rules, but the unwritten "prisoner" rules.
I was fortunate to be housed with Fran Turner, who had been here for almost 20 years. Since it was painfully obvious I had never been in prison before, she explained some rules that would help me survive. Stay out of other inmates' business, you didn't see or hear anything if questioned, don't get involved in the lesbian or "girlfriend" lifestyle, keep a low profile, and never forget- the guards are not your friends. I still follow these same rules.
Early in my stay, I took some college classes, but had to stop when the state stopped letting "big timers" take classes to be reimbursed on parole. I didn't have the resources to pay for classes. I was able to take a vocational class to train to become a Computer Maintenance Technician. I enjoyed the class and found this was something I had a talent for.
When the prison industry opened a Computer Recovery facility at Mountain View, my vocational teacher recommended me for a position. The goal of the program was to take computer equipment donated by Texas businesses, and refurbish them for use in the Texas School System. I was one of the inmates instrumental in the start-up of the facility. Everyone involved took great pride in the program we helped build. The women in the program were also offered the opportunity to receive an A+ Certification. An A+ Certification is an exam issued by CompTIA, which demonstrates your skill as a computer service technician. We worked and studied together as a team, all working together towards the goal of receiving our certification.
After receiving our A+ Certification, we designed a mentoring program to teach other offenders basic computer skills with the ultimate goal being their A+ Certification. The Computer Recovery program was removed from our women's unit and moved to a men's facility. In the short time we were allowed the program, I feel we made a difference in people's lives. None of the women who made parole after participating in our program have returned to prison.
During my first two years of incarceration, I had no contact with any of my family. Two of my cousins have since been there for me. They have written, sent pictures, and visited. They have been wonderful to me. I will always be grateful to them for being there for me. I have had limited contact with my daughter
One of the girls who was in the Computer Recovery program with me made parole eight years ago, she has been more supportive than most of my family. She has been there for me constantly. She is the daughter of my heart.
I have made a decision not to allow my circumstances to define who I am. I attempt to keep a smile on my face and a positive outlook. This has not been easy.
In July 2005, my son, Christopher, was shot by an unknown assailant on his way home. He was 3 blocks from his apartment when it happened. The doctors were unable to remove the bullet because of its location in his spine. At the age of 22, he was a quadriplegic. I thought knowing my child was hurt and I couldn't be there to help him was the worst feeling in the world, I found out this wasn't true. The worst feeling in the world was when Christopher died in October 2007, and I wasn't there for him. There are no words to describe the pain.
Although all my appeals have been denied, I continue to hope. I won't believe I am destined to spend the rest of my life in prison. My next step will be to file for a time cut.
I find it ironic- it took coming to prison to teach me I can rely on myself. For almost 20 years, I was told how inadequate I was in every area. It has been uplifting to realize this is not true. I have gained self-confidence and belief in myself. I have made it through experiences which would have destroyed most people. Not only have I survived and become a stronger person, I believe I have become a better person.
It would be easy to give up. If I let myself, I can be overwhelmed by feelings of despair and guilt. I have to believe there is a reason for me to keep going, to keep hoping.
I get up each morning with the goal of making it through the day. I don't worry about tomorrow or next week- getting through today is enough.