Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Amber S. Jackson
Lucky Lifer 

When a Prisoner Goes to the parole board, She must have a 5 year plan. Days of My Life...Sentence

Many inmates at Corona Institute for Women have no hope. For my first 13 years, I was one of them!

 

November 27, 2020

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There are many charges in the California penal code that do not require death, or even the intent to kill, but carry a life sentence.

Most people here just float along, knowing their release is comming on a specific date. I don't get that luxury. I dare not imagine the undetermined, unknown day of my release. How old will I be? Where will I live? Who will, if anyone, pick me up at the gates? Will I die in prison??

These questions whisper in my mind as I hammer away at my goals. Goals set by the parole commissioner I met with in December 2019. College. Vocational training. I'm in 10+ self-help classes by mail. Each yielding certificates of completion. Each addressing the 'causative factors' that landed me in prison. I just completed anger management. I just completed an autobiography course. And, a restorative justice class.

For me, reentry is a state of mind!! I'm always planning for my future. When you go to the parole board, you must have a 5 year plan. And that plan must be realistic. The "lifer" parole process is actually quite rigorous! Not for the weary or faint of heart. That's why it takes so much mental strength to work towards release!! It helps to have a support system of people rooting for you. Either way, l am not stopping until l'm free. You see, it's much easier to become institutionalized and stay comfortable in this prison setting.

Preparation for release requires one to willingly step outside of your comfort zone and go through the quite uncomfortable process of confronting issues that lead me to do something so serious that it warranted an indeterminate sentence. Many in here have no hope. For my first 13 years, I was one of them!!

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Some people messed up once and it was big, but it was not lifestyle of crime.

There are many charges in the California penal code that do not require death, or even the intent to kill, but carry a life sentence. Mine was aggravated mayhem. I heated up hot cooking oil and threw it at my victim. My sister. Something I can never take back. After much work, I am a totally different person. I can't even relate to the person I once was. My only way of making amends is what's called a 'living amends.' Each day I live in recovery from my old behaviors and help others to do so also.

The 2 commissioners on the parole board must ask themselves, "Would I be comfortable with Amber as my neighbor??" This is the the question that determines your freedom or further prison time. Some people messed up once and it was big, but it was not lifestyle of crime. Others have a pattern of dangerous criminal acts. Which am I? That will be up to them. The fruit I bear should answer that question.

I use every moment of everyday to work on my rehabilitation!! I eat, sleep and breathe it. Always evaluating my thoughts, feelings, habits. Always careful not to relapse into old patterns. Always reminding myself of how I got here.

 

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