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

By Amber S. Jackson
Lucky Lifer 

We Won't Hurt You!

Female Prisoners Message To The Community As CDCR's Early Prison Releases Spark Fury And Fear

 

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A prisoner plays basketball at San Quentin

Prisoners to public critics: "YOU DON'T KNOW US!" I've got something to say...

I'm a lifer, so this "early release'' thing does not apply to me. I've got something to say to all the BLIND ANTI-PRISONER-RELEASE ACTIVISTS out there!!. Working against all prisoners. If that's who you are or how you think, please shut up and please listen!

I, Amber, am a prisoner. I speak about what I see for myself. Not what I wish I saw. Not what I imagine. It's what I see with my own eyes. Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I don't. But, it's real! You have a small group of people who don't care about getting rehabilitated or stopping drug use, etc. A small group. Then you have people like me. Who use our time here to better ourselves. We take classes. We're in vocational training. I'm in computer and related technology. We're taking advantage of free college. I'm on the path to my AA and business certificate with Chaffey college. Current student. I do multiple correspondence self-help classes. With certificates to prove it. I mentor the younger women around me. I'm proactive about my 12-step recovery and relapse prevention. I'm working to be the best version of myself so that I can offer some value to society and my future neighbors!!

I've made mistakes. We, PRISONERS, have clearly made mistakes. Early release is not for everyone. But you can't just blindly throw a blanket over every PRISONER and keep people warehoused in prison out of a general prejudice against incarcerated human beings.

I pray often, that someone, a former prisoner, will not get out and commit a serious, violent crime. A crime so egregious that it will cause the current prison reform to take a pause!! That's one of my fears. Yes, I think often and even worry about the crime happening on the streets. Does that surprise you?

Many of these prisoners here are moms. These early releases will reunite families. Just as there are dads in the men's prisons. You can't keep people in prison just because they're uneducated, poor and may even have an addiction! Warehousing humans beings so you don't have to think about or look at them? These are human lives!

You have to judge each individual on their merits. As a lifer, I will be judged and released based on my own hard work. I will go through a rigorous process. They do not gamble or depend on hope. With us lifers, they make sure we are as close to a SURE BET, as one can get. I'm okay with that. Because I know I don't want to leave unless and until I'm ready.

If they said, "Ms. Jackson, you have the option to go home tomorrow',' I'd decline. I want to finish my college and vocational training. I know it's tough out there. And I take my reentry seriously. I want to be more than ready. I want to do this right!

I see many of my peers doing all they can to change!! Reading AA/NA books. Journaling. I also do both. And so do many others!! Whenever someone is about to leave, they throw out their books and put them for others to pick up. I find the best books from people about to go home!! Treasures. I'm currently working on a book called "Walking The 12 Steps With Jesus Christ." I can't believe I'm in love with a recovery book. But I am. I'm in a period of self transformation. I am a totally different person than when when I came to prison. So are many others. People deserve a chance. A chance to rebuild their lives. So often, the fate of a prisoners life becomes a political football. Thrown back and forth to make points. For once, use prison and use release for what they're meant.

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Prison chaplains in Trinidad

I made a mistake so bad they I deserved my life sentence. No death. But I did a very bad thing. A giant mistake. I've changed. Completely. I can't ever take back what I did. I can only change Amber. So, I've fundamentally changed. I've profoundly changed. I am now a person who cares for others. Helps others. Respects others. I'm able to trust again. I'm able to enjoy life without drugs. I'm able to find a piece of jewelry and know how to give it back to the owner. I now know the value of life, death, freedom and choices.

Before you paint with such a broad brush, please stop and think. Not all prisoners possess bad intent and plan to do bad things. Some of us want more than anything to just have that chance. Rebuild. Make amends. We want you to know we won't hurt you!! I'll be your neighbor soon. I just want to go to work, come home and be safe. Just like you. The bad apples are few. Most prisoners just want to live their lives. If you look over and see me smiling, I'm your neighbor who just moved in. If you give me a chance, you'll see we both want the same things...

 

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