Archive for June, 2008

June 25, 2008

Tell Me Where it Hurts

by Jessie Mabrey

“When the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of change, change will come.”

I always wondered what that quote meant. How could change come from overwhelming pain inflicted and endured? I’ve spent my entire life believing pain is to be endured, just “suck it up” and keep it moving.

The pain of being a “colored” subservient woman became the pain of being a “black” liberated woman and then the pain of being an African-American incarcerated woman. Each decade the title changed, yet I remained the same confused little dark girl trying to “get in where I fit in,” according to what decade it was. I was fighting and scratching my way out of a hole dug by generation after generation of black and white men.

If a black man couldn’t find his place in the world, how in God’s name was I supposed to be comfortable with the fact that I had found mine?

A no-win situation. Insurmountable odds and incredible pain, guilt for being able to make it, pain from not knowing what I would become, and changing in spite of it.

June 25, 2008

Now What?

by Jessie Mabrey

Fifteen years in a war zone. Watching my back, watching what I say, watching what I do. Constantly on alert. Suspicion and mistrust became my main survival skills, the only ones I can count on. Drastically changing my way of thinking and reacting to the point where I don’t know who I am anymore.

Who are these people around me? Eventually, there is no desire to even question who they are. I no longer care. I must survive by any means necessary. I can’t feel anything. Am I still in shock? Is this a nightmare? What does traffic sound like? I can’t remember. Do we still have phones? What’s a blackberry? Is anyone gonna teach me how to use one? Do I still turn the ignition on a car, or push a button? What do you mean toilets flush by themselves?

Now you wanna let me go, right? The person that left the free world is not the person returning to it. How’s my family being prepared for that? When does the deprogramming begin? Or does it? Fifteen years in a war zone, less than one year to the parole board.

Now what?

June 25, 2008

Free at Last

by Victor Johnson

We all have certain struggles and weaknesses in life. For some it’s hatred, wrath, or even strife. For others it’s envy, drunkenness, or even murder. But for me it was the lust of the materialistic world. At one time I had everything that I had ever needed, or so I had thought. I had a caring wife, a beautiful baby girl, a nice house, a nice car, and a good job. Although I had all of these great things, and had the “perfect life,” I knew deep down that I was imprisoned. Something was restraining me and holding me prisoner.

Slowly, my world started crumbling all around me. By 2004, my wife had left me and we got a divorce. By 2005, I found out that the most precious thing in my life wasn’t even mine. Although in my heart that little angel will always be my baby girl, a DNA test came back proving otherwise. At this time I was court-ordered to never have contact with her again. This little four-year old girl had already become a huge part of my life. I had met the woman that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and now everything seemed like it was turning back around. For some reason I still felt like there was a huge void in my life.

On June 6, 2006, I caught a case and was sentenced to five years in prison. I was in denial at first, and then in shock. I thought that, at 31 years-old, my life was over. I wondered how I could go from being a police officer and a family man to becoming a failure and a disappointment to my family and friends. Within six months (right before Christmas) I finally lost the last good thing in my life and hit rock bottom. I had just found out that my fiancé had gotten pregnant from someone else while I was in prison. After I heard the news, I just laid around for weeks. I couldn’t eat and I went from 200 pounds to 140 pounds in a matter of two or three weeks.

On Christmas Eve, I couldn’t take it any more. I then got down on my knees and turned my whole life over to the Lord. I begged God to take my life and do with it what he saw fit. As the country song says, “Jesus, just take the wheel.” I gave the Lord full control of my life. On September 2, 2007, I was baptized in prison. The void that I had been searching to fill for so many years was finally filled with the Holy Spirit.

From there, another Christian brother and I started doing God’s will and started planting the seeds to lost souls in prison. Most people that think they are in prison also think their life is now over. Let me tell you something, brothers and sisters. This is just the beginning. You don’t have to live a life in prison. If you truly search for and find Christ, and make him your Lord and savior, you can be free like I am. Your flesh may be in prison, but your spirit will be “free at last.” Although we still have many struggles in life as Christians, the Lord will always be there with us, and he will be our light in our darkest hours.

So, my message to you brothers and sisters is this: Put away your old ways and let Christ lead you in the new ways. Christ is the only one who can loosen those chains, and Christ is the only one who can truly make you “free at last.”

June 25, 2008

I Am the Victor

by Dawn (Staples) Jones


No. That word could never describe what it felt like to walk out of The Ohio State University Hospital in shackles and leave my two-day old daughter waiting for Butler County Children’s Services to come pick her up. It was the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life, and there are no words to describe it.

My name is Dawn Jones, better known as Staples. I’ve been a resident at Franklin Pre-Release Center for 14 months. My daughter will be one-year old the 30th of this month [March, 2008], and I haven’t seen her since the day I left her at the hospital. Her dad was in rehab when she was born, and everyone else who has applied for custody of my daughter has been turned down.

My best friend of 16 years is trying to get custody now and my husband is also working his case plan. It’s been a battle that isn’t over yet. I have 15 months left on a three-year sentence, and I’ve been denied for judicial release three times already. I’m more than halfway there, but still so far away. I have to admit that of all the crazy things I’ve been through, this surpasses it all. I’ve never felt pain like this, and I never want to again. But, through all the chaos that is now my life, I made a decision: I refuse to walk out of those gates the same person I was when I walked through them. I learned that this prison has a lot to offer me. I just have to be willing to work for it. I have put my trust in God to see me through because I know I can’t do it on my own.

So, I have been busy. I’ve earned 16 certificates in the time I have been here, and I am now taking drafting classes. When I finish drafting, I will be a drafting tutor while I take business management through Wilmington College. I also direct the silent choir where we do sign language to Christian music. I do cross-stitching and I read my Bible. When I’m not doing all that, I write.

I was asked a very good question by a very dear friend of mine. She asked, “If your daughter got adopted, and you didn’t get to see her until she decided to come looking for you, what would she find?” That question motivates me when I get down. I have decided that I’m not going to be the victim. I am going to be the victor!