My Story

The incarcerated are our brothers and sisters-broken angels.   Many of the women were sexually, physically or mentally abused as children or a victim of domestic violence.  They have huge self-esteem and self-worth issues and the prison system continues that cycle and then expects them to come out and be healthy productive members of society.  To prepare these women for going back into society, they should be treating them with dignity and respect, be building their self-esteem and self-worth and teach them job skills that are relevant to today's society.  Prison causes a form of PTSD.  It is horrific the way we treat other human beings sometimes.  And if you say that saying, "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime", then you have missed the point and it is easy to dismiss the atrocities of the justice system and the prison system. 


My beautiful daughter

Until my daughter was a part of the Justice System and became incarcerated, I had no idea how broken the system is.  She had a public defender who did not defend her.  She tried to fire him several times but the judge refused.  He barely saw her.  She had a judge who would not recuse herself.  My daughter had the judges husband as a lawyer a few years earlier in a child custody case and they parted on bad terms.  She had his wife as her judge and this woman had obvious preconceived notions about my daughter and sentenced her accordingly (20 years).    When her appeals lawyer took her case he called her and apologized to her for the system failing her.  I think prosecutors, judges and public defenders should spend at least 3 days incarcerated.  Maybe then they would not be so intent on harsh sentences and destroying families.  If you are going to send people to prison, part of your responsibility is make sure prisons are safe and humane.  Prison sentences are too harsh and do more harm than good.  Our prisons are filled with people who should no longer be there.  Our prison system is about punishment and not about rehabilitation thus a 65% recidivism rate after 5 years.  Not to mention, all the obstacles one faces with a felony charge in regards to jobs and housing.  You do your time but it follows you for the rest of your life.  How is that fair or right.

My daughter had a very traumatic childhood, a lot of it related to my own issues having been severely sexually abused as a child.  She also was sexually abused and diagnosed with bi-polar disorder at a young age.  Because of a mental breakdown I had when she was 5, she went to live with her Dad and his wife, where there was further trauma.  I was not able to get her back and she did not come to live with me full time again until she was 15.  She started cutting herself at 13.  She had a lot of anger and when she was younger had tattooed RAGE across her arm.  Over the years, she almost died of alcohol poisoning 4 or 5 times; me being called to her deathbed twice.  She was in so much internal pain and trauma that no one could reach her.  As she got older, she would go through periods where she would be able to cope and stay clean for a period of time, but the demons never went away.  She was very self-reliant and always held a job, owned her own business and home at one point and took care of herself financially.  The alcoholism was a constant battle and I would have to say that she was the worst alcoholic I have ever seen though she was a binge drinker.  She would drink until the paramedics were called.  Looking back at that time, it saddens me so much and I should have tried to do more to help her but we lived cross country from each other and we were not close.  She had a lot of resentment towards me which was completely valid.  I spent years trying to overcome my own demons.  She also got addicted to oxy's that were prescribed for a back injury.

So here we are almost 6 years later and my daughter is doing very well given the circumstances.  It took about two years for her brain to recover from addiction and for her to be the person she was meant to be.  It hasn't been easy.  She has gone through a lot in prison and I have had to advocate for her (and still do) many times because of cruel treatment.  I am the "mother from hell", but it gets things done.  She is such an amazing person and I am so proud of her.  She has and continues to work on herself spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  She taught herself yoga and also does power yoga.  She teaches a yoga class in prison.  We both agree that prison saved her life and was a divine intervention.  She has a 16 y/o daughter who loves her dearly.   My daughter and I have healed our relationship, are very close and know we are kindred spirits on this journey together to learn.  I was not a good mother to her then but I can be her staunchest supporter now.   

Also, I would have to say that probably most crimes are related to drug use or mental health issues; in which case people need help.  We had asked the judge to give my daughter a downward so she could get help with her addiction and mental health issues.  The judge had no empathy for her whatsoever and barely listened to her traumatic life at sentencing.  She had already made up her mind.  A pedophile got sentenced during my daughter's sentencing and he got 18 months.  I could go on and on about my daughter's case and why she did not deserve 20 years. We just found an inmate with the exact same chargesas my daughter but who also was on probation.  She got 5 years.  My daughter got 20 even though her bottom was 9.  She was punished for going to trial. 

Everyone makes mistakes. There is an old saying "walk a mile in my shoes".  We are quick to judge and in doing so we miss an opportunity for compassion, empathy and forgiveness.  I have met a lot of these women and they are no different than you or I.  They have already been punished by separating them from their family and society.  We do not need to punish them more with cruel and unusual punishment.  To me, being called by Inmate or by your number is psychologically damaging.   People can and do change.  One day most of them will be someone's neighbor so what do we want them to learn in prison and what are we going to do to help make sure they don't go back.  We should not be defined by the worst thing we have ever done or we would all have a very difficult time.  Everyone has something positive to contribute to the whole.