Archive for the ‘prison for women’ Category

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Yesterday was Christmas.  For me, it was the best Christmas I can remember in a very long time.  Certainly since my children were babies.  We did things a little differently this year.  Our focus was more on “real” Christmas than on “commercial” Christmas.  We didn’t run around spending a bunch of money on gifts for people we don’t even see throughout the year.  We didn’t buy a bunch of gifts for each other.  We didn’t stress out trying to get to a bunch of Christmas get togethers.  It was an authentic Christmas.

A big part of this being such a great Christmas was the lack of drama where my stepchildren are concerned.  There is a court date pending that in part addresses the ex-wife’s continual interference and manipulation of visitation.  So for the first time I can remember, there hasn’t been any jockeying on her part to screw with the court-ordered visitation schedule over the Holidays.  Amazing how much better it is when she manages to play by the rules.  It is unfortunate however, that it takes having an active complaint to force her into compliance.  Fortunately, there are not many more years of this foolishness in front of us.

My favorite part of Christmas this year was being able to visit my daughter in prison on Christmas Eve.  Maybe that sounds strange.  Would I prefer my daughter be home at Christmas, celebrating with us at home?  Of course I would.  But it’s not time for that yet.  She still has work to do.  And for her to be successful out in what is referred to as “the free world” there are no shortcuts.

I enjoy my visits with my daughter.  Not just spending time with her, but learning about and getting to know some of the other women in prison.  There are so many stories.  Some happy, some sad, but all very, very real.  Faces put to problems.  People facing great adversity.  I respect them for that.  Many of the people I have met that are in prison are more honest, much more humble and sincere, than a lot of the people I know on the outside.  Often I wonder how it is that some people get caught at a crime and harshly sentenced while others commit crimes for years yet escape ever being brought to justice.  Many times I think about this long after I have left the concrete walls and razor wire that contain them.

Christmas is such a great time for personal reflection.  A time to take inventory in ourselves.  For me it’s a time to think about how I have spent the past year and how I am going to grow in the coming year.  Have I been the best person I can be?  Where have I fallen short?  How can I do better?  My hope is that I can use my voice, my talents, whatever resources I am given, to make the world a better place.  To continue to stand up for what’s right and to keep pushing for change.  To hold on to faith, to hope, and to love.

Here’s hoping you had a very Merry Christmas!  Much love to you.

 

1 Corinthians 13:13   Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

 

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Do you know anyone in prison?  I mean, do you actually KNOW anyone in prison?  Up until the time my daughter went to prison I did not know anyone in prison.  Never had a face to put on the mental image I had of an inmate on the very rare occasion I did give thought to someone being in prison.  I never gave much thought to the people in prison.

Furthermore, I never gave much thought to what prison was actually like, although I was certain it wasn’t TOO horrible.  I had in my mind the idea that there was constant supervision, that the environment would be monitored throughly and controlled.  Perhaps I even believed some of the ignorant emails that float around and tout prisoners getting three free meals a day, being able to hang out and watch TV, spend their time getting a college degree and working out at the prison gym.  Much like the majority of the political emails I get, whoever wrote them doesn’t have a clue about the reality.  It has been my experience that you may think you feel one way about a situation, but when that situation becomes personal and effects you or someone you love, your opinion is likely to change.  Suddenly, you develop an understanding that you couldn’t have had without the experience.  You grow.

When my daughter was first sent to prison she went to a maximum security facility.  Not because she had done something so horrible as to deserve that, but simply because that is the only facility this state uses as the intake center for women.  It is a very scary place.  When you drive up you see the facility across a field.  Big.  Cold.  Surrounded by layers of fencing topped with rows and rows of razor wire.  There is razor wire in the fields should anyone possibly make it over the fences or through the doors.

When a woman arrives at the prison, the first sixty days are spent on what they call “Hoe Squad.”  You get up early and walk out into the fields and do exactly as the name implies; you hoe.  Or you chop with a sickle.  The armed guards on horseback watch over you.  If you happen upon a field rat or snake you had better not run.  They warn you before you ever go out that it will be determined that you are trying to escape and you will be shot.  Rain or shine, out into the fields you go.  The only exception being very severe weather.  It’s not easy.  Then again, it’s not meant to be.

There is no privacy in prison.  You use the toilet and shower with other women.  They search you thoroughly in places I prefer to keep private.  My daughter tells me you grow used to it.  This would be a stretch for me.  Then again, if you have no choice, I guess you get used to a lot of things that are outside of your comfort zone.  After visitation the searches are especially invasive.  Unfortunately, many times this is when inmates receive contraband.  It is unbelievable to me but I understand that many times easier to to get drugs on the inside than on the street.

For the most part, the day is pretty structured.  Inmates have jobs in prison.  Depending on their classification (behavior/danger level) they are assigned to various areas.  Kitchen, laundry, legal library, field work, maintenance to name a few.  They are not paid.  If they have classes, they are in the classroom half the day and work the other half.  Classes can be focused on personal behavioral issues such as anger management, or parenting skills.  Or they can focus on helping the inmate learn a skill which will allow them to be released back into society with knowledge that will help them be employable.  For some of the women this is cosmetology or culinary skills.

Mail is precious when you’re in prison.  That connection to friends, family and the outside “free” world is often one of the few things to help stave off depression.  Prison is a scary place.  Even to visit.  Some of the women here are very dangerous.  Thinking about this is enough to make me cry.  My daughter is 5’4″ tall and weighs about 125 lbs.  There have been many instances that have caused us to fear for her safety.  As a mother, there is no way to not worry.  It is difficult to think of my baby girl inside those razor wire fences, in a cement block building.

Every Sunday I talk to my daughter.  Every Sunday a little piece of me grieves.  Every Sunday has a little crying time.  I wish you knew my daughter.  She is smart and funny.  She has a big heart and is always trying to help people.  Now that part of her is forever overshadowed by terrible decisions made while under the influence of legally obtained prescription medications.  It is heartbreaking.  It has been two years since she went away.  It is still so surreal.  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  Is she going to be okay?  Why is she in jail over others who have done much, much worse?  These are questions I wrestle with constantly.  She has two more years to serve on her sentence.  Two more years of limited contact.  Prepaid phone calls.  Two more years of visiting under the watch of armed guards.  We drive down to see her when we can.  Two more years of praying night and day for her safety.  And more than anything, we pray for her healing.

Websters dictionary describes justice in this way:

1

a: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b: judge c: the administration of law; especially: the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity

2

a: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1): the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c: the quality of conforming to law

3: conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness 

The best fit for my personal definition of justice is number three.  Conformity to truth, fact or reason seems like common sense to me.  Correctness a must.  But how often do we see TRUE justice?

This is a topic that is often on my mind, but more so ever since this past weekend.  On Saturday, my husband and I drove south to visit my daughter.  She was transferred a few months ago to this minimum security facility which is a little over three hours from home.  My husband and I enjoy our time together and road trips are no exception.  Sometimes we have great discussions.  Other times, we just enjoy the quiet and the nearness of each other.

On this particular drive down the mountain, I caught up on reading information related to the release of the West Memphis 3.  The more information I read, the more questions I had.  How did these boys end up in jail in the first place?  Why wasn’t there more investigation into family members?  And now years later, when they have proven that there is no DNA evidence to connect them to the crime, why do they have to take a guilty plea to be released?  I didn’t live in Arkansas when all this happened, but my husband did.  From his point of view, he said it was a “witch hunt.”  I don’t see justice here.  And what about those three little boys that were horribly murdered?  Where is their justice?  Someone, or maybe even more than one, who brutally assaulted and murdered three little boys, has walked around in society for almost twenty years.  Free as a bird.  Most likely has been around other children.  There is certainly no justice in that.

As we sit in the prison visiting area, we often talk about what people have done, how much time they have served, how much time they have left.  Everybody has a story.  Sometimes, I understand.  Most of the time, I don’t.  So many women locked up.  Most of them on some type of drug charge, many of them because they were involved with the wrong people, making the wrong choices from simply not knowing any better.   Is it really justice to lock these women up in prison right off the bat?  Many need rehab, many could serve time in local county jails closer to their families where they could see and maintain some type of contact with their children.  Yes, I believe some people truly belong in prison.  But I also believe it should be the punishment of last resort for many crimes.  Specifically, non-violent offenses.

I have watched the joy experienced as mothers are reunited with their children.  I have also watched the anguish as those children are torn from their mothers arms at the end of visitation.  I have heard the guttural sobs associated with this separation.  You cry too.  You can’t avoid hearing the heartbreak.  I don’t believe we are doing our future generations any service by not getting to the root the problem.  For them, this is not justice.  People are not disposable, yet perhaps it will seem that way to them.

Then, there are the people that walk around every day, never convicted of any crime, that have done and continue to do harm to humanity.  They are a curse to society.  Clever enough to not get caught, or lie their way out when they do.  Many times it comes down to who has the shadiest lawyer, who is the best liar.  None of that is justice.

So how do we go about getting things changed?  I don’t know all the answers, but I do know this, we can all do something.  However small, an act in the interest of truth goes a long way.  In our case, I don’t know why or how all of this hasn’t come out before now, but I know it will.  A friend commented the other day that all of this is so much a part of me.  Yes, it is.  How can it not be?  Look at all the wrongs that have happened (just that we KNOW about), all the damage that has been done to my personal property, the stress on my children and my stepchildren, the attacks on my marriage, the incredible financial hardship over the years.  You damn right it’s part of me.  And I intend to see that justice is done.

What kind of person would I be if I didn’t see this through to the end?  Isn’t it our duty as members of society to value the truth and bring it to the light?  Whether it be a hugely sensational case such as WM3 or simply a teacher having sex with students who continues to make a mockery of our family court system, none of it is right.  People need to get involved.  There needs to be justice.  You never know when it could be you who needs it.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”Martin Luther King Jr.

Today has been a hard day for me.  I’m not gonna’ lie to you.   It started off with me thinking about working on taxes (we asked for an extension) because my husband‘s ex smells money and wants an increase in child support.  From there it went to two articles in the newspaper.  One on how hard it is for felons to become gainfully employed once they have served their time; the other on women in prison and how art helps them cope.

Both of these are pretty touchy topics for me.  Do NOT misunderstand me.  I am all for child support to the custodial parent.  Actually, I favor shared parenting where possible.  In our case, it is not an option.  I do understand the cost involved in raising children and my husband needs to contribute his share.  I try to give too for that matter.  I love these children.  Have known them since they were small.  Even raised them in my home for three years.  What I have a HUGE issue with is the fact that this woman actually has the balls to take my husband back to court at all, much less for child support.

Of the four children born of the marriage, three belong biologically to my husband; one does not.  The one that does not is the third child.  When the ex became pregnant with this child my husband questioned her because of rumors that were going around town about her having sex with students.  Fast forward ten years.  That child isn’t my husbands.  Which means she is most likely the product of one of the affairs (yes, ONE of – there were reportedly at least a couple of boys) with one of the students.

There truly is NOTHING to envy or be insecure about when considering this woman but I am still going to sound like the “catty” second wife when I say this – This woman in nuts!  So, to protect the children, WE had OUR attorney draw up a sealed court order forbidding paternity to be discussed with the children outside of a counseling setting.  We didn’t want it yelled at the kids during one of their mother’s fits.  We wanted to be able to sit in a supervised setting – all of us together – to share it out in the open and offer love and comfort to all four children.  Did that happen?  NO!  The mother absolutely refused to continue counseling and has used that sealed order against us at every turn.  She sure doesn’t want paternity of this child discussed in any way, shape or form.  Now, let’s add this sick little twist to the story.  We now know that the mother told all four children the truth about paternity the day we had their cheeks swabbed.  She KNEW that child didn’t belong to my husband.  Furthermore, she had already TOLD the children before we even went to court.  And they were so young – 14, 12, 10 and 7 years of age at the time. Not only has this woman made a total mockery of the family courts in our county, she clearly believes she can continue to make a fool out of the Judge.

This brings me back to the issue of child support.  Why in the name of God should this woman be allowed to collect one red cent from my husband for child support when she REFUSES to find the father of the third child and collect child support from him???  He isn’t in High School anymore.  He is now in his early thirties so should be able to hold down some type of employment.  It is clear she doesn’t want to identify the father because there would go her teaching license.  She hasn’t been fired for all the boys she has had sex with here in this area but proving that a former student is the father of her child would be the end of her teaching career.  And it should in my opinion.

As for the prison articles.  How can I be anything but upset?  My daughter was an excellent student.  Perfect, no.  She was like any other teenager.  But she didn’t deserve to be bullied at school for speaking the truth about a teacher having sex with students.  She didn’t deserve to be in the office every week defending her actions or right to talk about it.  She didn’t deserve to be suspended for simply speaking the name of this teacher on campus.  My daughter fought to do the right thing.  She reported an adult abusing their authority over the students in a most despicable way.  No one could or would help her.  She lost faith and headed down the wrong road.  It cost her future.  At times I thought it might cost her life.  I hope she is strong enough to change this into something positive and go forward to help others.

But what about this teacher?  WHY won’t anyone speak up and do the right thing?  The school board knows.  The superintendent knows.  The students know and many parents know.  Why do people accept this type of person even having access to their child?  And why isn’t she being hauled in to court and raked over the coals for her many violations of the court order instead of being allowed to use it as a weapon against us?

You see, hard day.  Too many questions to ponder.  And I can’t help but wonder what someone like Oprah would say about this mess.  Would she find it as unbelievable as I do?  Would Oprah be bothered by the inequality of a young girl who used someone’s credit card and spent $4500 being the one sitting in prison while a woman who has violated many young men, damaged so many young people, and destroyed whole families by her predatory behaviors stands in a classroom?  I believe she would be sickened as any normal person with half a moral compass would be.  But where are the people who have the backbone to stand up and force change?  Where are they?

Like I said, it’s been a rough day.

This week, while I waited on my husband to have a root canal, I browsed several of the groups I belong to related to paternity fraud, child support, Father’s rights, etc.  My heart broke when I read an especially touching post by a father who is not allowed any time other than standard visitation with his children.  He heart-wrenchingly wrote of being without them and not even being allowed to talk to them every day.

This got me thinking about pain.  Actually, in my mind I was comparing physical pain to emotional pain.  Weighing the two against each other.

Physical pain:  I have given birth naturally – no pain killers what so ever – twice.  I had my legs seriously damaged in a head-on auto accident – one leg was crushed.  The worst part of that story is that the ER doc was a quack who sent me home telling me there was nothing wrong with my legs, I was just sore he insisted.  Three weeks later I am having emergency surgery after seeing an Orthopaedic Surgeon who clearly sees on the ER x-rays that my tibia was shattered into hundreds of small pieces.  The pain was horrifying.

Emotional pain:  I cried when my son was diagnosed with autism.  He was born a healthy baby, developing normally up to a point.  Then, I watched in horror – taking him to every specialist and getting him every therapy I could arrange – while he slipped away from me into his world.  Years later, I sobbed inconsolably as I sat in the courtroom and watched my baby girl be sentenced to prison, cuffed with her hands behind her back and taken to a bench to await transport to jail.

For me, hands down I will say the emotional pain was worse than the physical.  Is it the same for others?  Surely it is.  Unlike physical wounds, we seem to remember the emotional wounds at a deeper level.  Rarely do I think back to the pain I felt after my accident.  And even when I do, all I can remember is “it hurt.”  A lot.  Yet the smallest thing can jog my memory when it comes to my daughter and my heart breaks all over again.  I remember with sorrow how my son would use his words while he played with his favorite toys.  Seventeen years after the words disappeared, my heart still aches to remember those times.

That whole “sticks and stones” thing is a bunch of crap.  Words and deeds can and do hurt us.  They can hurt us deeply.  Shattering our self-esteem, tearing away at our confidence.  Relationships are built up or torn down by our words and our actions.  Obviously, relationships are ruined when there is physical hurt but isn’t there as much damage done by what we say or do?  I believe those wounds to be just as permanent.

Recent research shows that the number of women being put in prison is increasing at twice the rate of men. One-third of these women to prison on drug charges; two-thirds are mothers to small children. I never really thought about women in prison. Until about 4 years ago.

My daughter, age 25, is currently serving time in a correctional center.  She is not there on drug charges, however her issues stem from prescription drug addiction.  My daughter is an intelligent, loving and creative person – when she is drug free. When pills are involved, she is a completely different person.  I guess this is typical behavior when someone is addicted.

Most of her growing up years, my daughter was a typical kid.  She excelled in school, was involved in extracurricular activities at school and in the community, and active in church. She dreamed of being a doctor.  Her father and I are divorced and she has a younger brother who is severely affected by autism, but for the most part, she handled these things fairly well.  She was always a happy girl, funny too.  I remarried when she was 14 to someone she insisted I meet.  He was, and still is, a good father figure to her and her brother.  So what happened?

When she was 15, I had to remove her from the Public School system due to issues surrounding a teacher on staff who has a history of having
sex with students.  We pushed the issue to get it addressed, but nothing was ever done.  We went to the School Board.  I wrote to people on a State and National level.  Bottom line, we couldn’t prove it, so there was nothing we could do about it.

One day in particular, my daughter left school and we couldn’t locate her.  Because of her depressed state we worried that she would commit suicide.  Turns out she had been to the High School administration office, to the Superintendent’s office, to the School Board President’s office and lastly, to see our attorney at the time.  All of these adults told her the same thing: they could not help her.  There was “nothing they could do.”  Is it any wonder she has so little respect for authority?  The people she counted on to help her – including myself and my husband – were unable to.

She went into a deep depression and in the interest of her well-being, I removed her from public school to be home schooled until she was old enough to get her GED.  Looking back, this was probably the worst thing I could have done, but it seemed there were no other options.  Surrounding schools wouldn’t take students not living in their district, I couldn’t afford to put her back in private school, and leaving her at our public school was not an option.  Having lost her circle of friends and support system, which would be traumatic for any teenager, she began to hang out with older kids who were already out of school.  She was in pain and unfortunately she found unhealthy ways of dealing with it.

We insisted she get her GED and go to work.  She was loved at her jobs, but she was already addicted to the prescription medications.  It wasn’t long until she was in legal trouble, and that just seemed to snowball.  Next thing we know, she is in prison for fraudulent use of a credit card in the amount of around $4500.  No Boot Camp, no court-ordered drug treatment program, she went straight to a maximum security prison.  She was locked up with people you worry about as a parent.  Murderers, female sex offenders, drug manufacturers and dealers.  Her cellmate was a second time offender there for manslaughter and abuse of a corpse.  Shortly after enrolling her (maybe 2 months) in a long term  Therapeutic Community program they sent her home without having finished either the treatment program or her cosmetology certificate.  She had been there for over a year.  Upon release, a condition of her parole was to finish her cosmetology course.  Of course, it was the same for the other young women released so she ended up being surrounded by the people she most needs to avoid – other felons, specifically those she knew on the inside.

Please do not misunderstand; I truly believe my daughter – and anyone else who violates the laws of our society – needs to be held accountable for her actions. But I also believe people make stupid mistakes. And given the correct knowledge and tools, can overcome those mistakes.  My daughter was out in the “free world” as she calls it for almost a year before she was arrested on a parole violation.  They sent her back to prison for six months.  She then came back to await sentencing and was sent back again.  This time she was high on Klonopin.  Is it really in the best interest of our society to keep sending women like my daughter to prison?  And if we must send them to prison, shouldn’t we make a TRUE effort to give them the help they need to come out and have a fighting chance at being successful?  Otherwise, we may as well equip our prisons with revolving doors.

Oh, and that teacher I mention above…she is sitting on a beach right now.  Vacationing before she is back in school next month, standing in front of your child in the classroom, attempting to provide them with an education.  That’s a topic for another time.