Archive for March, 2008

March 25, 2008

Take a Chance

by Sandra Colston

I arrived at the Ohio Reformatory for Women correctional facility in Marysville on November 13, 1992. I arrived as a new inmate. The whole process of being admitted to prison, which was a humiliating thing to endure, took about five hours. Then, upon initial incarceration, there was a two-week waiting period before I was “cleared” to go out into the general population.

In prison, and certainly at Marysville, an inmate isclassified as a maximum, medium, or minimum-security status, all depending upon many factors. I was classified as a medium-status inmate. I was soon given a job at the central food service as a dishwasher. I started thinking about how I was going to do this time and not go crazy.

I decided that I would take a chance, set a goal, and try to obtain my GED. I took several classes. In 1993 I passed the GED tests and achieved my first goal.

I proceeded to check into other areas of inmate life I could accomplish in a positive way that would not allow me to get caught up in trouble. I had always been interested in gardening and growing plants, so since there was a program offered to learn about these things, I decided to enroll in a horticultural class. I eventually completed the course and was awarded a certificate of completion.

The first two years seemed to go by quickly. However, there were many more that needed to be completed. I began to feel less hopeless. I took the time to check into available jobs and if there was any chance of advancing into some job that would be rewarding as well as satisfying. I did find a job after all. I started this job making twenty-one cents an hour. It didn’t seem like much but it was one of the better-paying jobs in the prison.

I worked for Ohio Prison Industries (O.P.I.) and learned to sew work gloves that the inmates used in their various jobs. I worked at this job until 1995, and then I was able to enroll in Urbana College through its prison-facilitated degree program. I was so excited and wondered what would happen next. I had hope.

My life was in the hands of God, and I knew that in his hands I was safe. I lived in a single room for about three years. This was in “merit” housing. I also got the opportunity to train a puppy which I took everywhere – even to college class. (The dogs were being trained to be guide dogs for blind persons.) This was one of my greatest experiences during my incarceration.

During those years, I also attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and joined a group dedicated to discussing domestic violence. I learned to knit and crochet and made many afghans during those months. I entered a knitted, black, red, and white blanket into a craft show and received a second place ribbon. While with Ohio Prison Industries, as previously noted, I also worked on the “flag line,” in which I was a responsible member of the “field” part of the line that placed stars on the blue part of a flag.

Taking classes in prison through Urbana College was a dream that came true at that time.  I felt as though anything was possible. I took many different classes, but my major was psychology with a minor concentration in social services. I really enjoyed my class and the teachers were the greatest. Many of my teachers wrote letters of support to the parole board on my behalf. The encouragement that I received from my teachers and other staff members helped me see that dreams can be achieved amid incarceration and that I could do anything I set my mind to do.

I received my Associate Degree from Urbana in 1997. I participated in Jaycee sports and played softball. I participated in a Kairos (spiritual-oriented) retreat, which was a time for women inmates to get together with women on the outside that took valuable personal time to be with us. We sang and praised the Lord for our blessings. I enjoyed being a part of this Kairos, four-day weekend, in which, in our prayer groups, we could talk about anything going on in our lives. I learned how to handle certain situations. Several groups helped me resolve some issues I was having inside.

After receiving my degree, I began thinking about a next goal, about what I could do next. I soon became involved in a new program of data entry started by O.P.I.  I did not even now how to type, but I learned very quickly. I gradually learned to type at a decent speed. I worked at this program quite a while and eventually became a floor trainer. I trained new employees on each data entry job. I was responsible for demonstrating to employees what was expected of them, and I also made sure each employee understood the importance of her typing accuracy and speed. Once again, I felt so much better about myself and my time at Marysville. I began to realize that I truly could do just about anything of a positive nature if I so chose.

March 25, 2008

How much can you forgive?

by M. Bryant

“This shit is crazy, ain’t it?”  I turn my head to the left, then my right.  There’s no one here, just my voice as it reflects another side of me.

“Do you remember when you were about three, maybe five, in the basement with your uncle?  Remember how he touched you the wrong way?  Don’t you hate him for that?”

“No, because he did to me what someone else had done to him.  Why hate him when it won’t change the past?”

“Well, what about all your abusive boyfriends?  They made you feel worthless and ugly.  Remember the black eyes and bruised up body?  And your friend got you when you were down and out to try something new but didn’t tell you crack was in that joint.  Surely you can’t let that ride.”

“Yes I can because I can change the people in which I’ve dealt with that were unhealthy relationships for me.  As I grow through this I can go on with my life.”

“Remember how your mother stuck by her man that continuously molested you?  She loved him more than she loved you because she sent you away instead of him.  Can you honestly say you can forgive even that?”