Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

A Woman Prisoner Reflects: What Will Life on the Outside Look Like?

This is the first time I'll see the world since age 20. I'll have some hard work to do. No doubt, I'll have to prove myself over and over and over

Your state of mind. Where do you see yourself?? For me, a prisoner who will be out there with you in less than 4 years, REENTRY is a state of mind. MY state of mind. Once I learned that I was never the same. I now wear reentry like a second skin. What am I talking about? Let me tell you.

I once had no hope. None. I was walking dead on the inside; I cared about nothing. I was numb. I had felt so much pain that my pain level was at the max and I shut down. It was so bad that nothing mattered. I went through the daily motions like a robot. People noticed that. There was no up or down in life. No rock bottom just nonstop falling, like in space. For some reason, I was never suicidal, ever. If I were, this would have been part of it too. I just never deal with that. I was in so much pain I did not even think of my past or my future. I had no interest in anything. I drifted. I knew I'd likely never leave prison and I did not care. All meaning had been stripped away. I was a shell.

I've shared my life from many angles with you. If you are meeting me for the first time, welcome! If you have been with me and you know my tone, welcome back. You know from past articles how I got from that state to be this ambitious, dynamic Phoenix on the rise...

Here I am, a few years before freedom. I'm now able to look at someone with, say, 5 years and think, I'll be home before them. I'm able to say, I'll only need one more pair of jeans. One more pair of sweat pants. 3 more pairs of tennis shoes. You see where I'm going. I can envision when I'll leave. I calculate that into my plans. My time is essentially over. I have trained my brain to look forward and prepare for a big change.

Coming into prison was painful. After so much time, the process of leaving will involve pain, anxiety and all sorts of mixed, uncomfortable emotions. While I'm confident, I'm realistic. This is the first time I'll see the world since age 20. I'm expecting to feel a huge amount of happiness during the honeymoon phase. When that initial burst wears off, I'll have some hard work to do. Freedom is the end of one journey and the beginning of another. No doubt, I'll have to prove myself over and over and over.

To the supporters of prisoners, I'll be an example of what rehabilitation looks like. To those who watch too much TV and may have even been crime victims themselves, I will be someone they will need to keep their eye on and expect the worst from. At least until they get to know me. They may be afraid to hire me. Maybe they'll think I would steel from them, even though my history is violence, not theft. Not to mention, as a lifer on parole, ANY breaking of the law, no matter how petty, will be cause them to reinstate my life sentence. So, totally unworth it. That will not stop some people from expecting things like that just because I was in prison. I'm going to prove them wrong. I'm sticking to my plans, and I'll use every opportunity to show anyone who's watching that I belong in the free world. I'll be a good neighbor.

My thoughts are different. My behaviors are different. My heart is healed. My values are clear. My habits are inventoried daily. My focus and vision are set on success. Build a business. Be part of my neighborhood. Pay taxes. It's crazy, I look forward to my first time paying my taxes. That means I've arrived and I'm free again.

I'm all in. The old me is no longer. It's for the best. I plan on going to therapy if I can afford it or get it in my insurance!! I'll be going to AA/NA meetings. I plan to both mentor youth, and get a mentor for myself. Someone who's already come home from prison and is successfully living. I want to ask them questions and follow the footsteps of the successful on the same path ahead of me.

I'll never eat anything I saw in prison again. Even pizza. For the rest of my life. I did the same thing when I got out of juvenile hall. The only prison habit I'm taking home with me is coffee drinking. I love my Tasters' Choice. I will not wear any of the colors we were restricted to wearing in prison. I got plans to get a ton of piercings. Oh yeah. I have all kinds of things I plan to do. Positive, legal and ethical are my guides.

The lie is dead. Rehabilitation is REAL and realistic if you want it. I didn't think I could change either. Some want us to think once we do something bad we are irredeemable. I can't take back my crime. No loss of life in my case. I am humbled to have come this far. I don't blame people for not knowing what to expect from a former prisoner. I plan to change how people look at those of us returning from prison.


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