Archive for September, 2008

September 26, 2008

History, A Perspective

by Gerald Thompson

I was raised Muslim. My first contact with the world of Islam was the music and poetry or Sufis, mystic Muslims.

When I became more of age, I got involved with a more disciplined and militant form of Islam and also got involved in Black Consciousness. This was subtly teaching me self-righteousness, separatism and hatred. What? Gradually, something softened my heart and “started” to open my eyes to see the way—as in a Miracle.

In the year 1996, I was sitting in a jail cell in a San Diego detention center facing 95 years to life. I phoned an old friend. But, a person from Union Temple Baptist Church accepted the collect call instead of my friend. His name was Carl, and I said, “There must be a mix up.” He said that the person I was calling for had moved and the building had now been converted into a church that had an outreach for inmates, and that my calling him was no mistake!

After that, I had explained my hopeless situation. He said that God could still move in my affairs —if I reconciled my life to him through Jesus Christ and then wrote out a kind of “binding” contract. He said it was a “covenant” with God to promise a service that I would do to also save souls. I should also declare in this covenant something I would give back.

Once I did this, I started to have a vision that came throughout the day and night. I clearly saw my attorney kneel down in front of me, hold out his hand to shake mine, saying, “Case dismissed.”  And soon, a situation very similar to this actually happened, exactly as it was shown to me in this vision!

I was soon released. However, through another set of unfortunate circumstances, I found my way back in prison.

In prison, I have been labeled a religious fanatic. The only word now that helps me, for sure, and every time is the same: “Jesus.”

I am also now wishing to correspond with anyone who would like to write me. I pray for letters. My address is: Gerald Thompson (#430014) Southern Ohio Correctional Facility/Box 45699/Lucasville, Ohio 45699. Thank you.

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September 26, 2008

Backward, Forward

by Dawn Staples

Backslider? I was one of the worst.

I quit everything. I even quit Jesus.

That was when God sat me down and gave me a long time to think about the path I was going down: three years in prison. A very long time to straighten out myself.

When I made it to admission into the Ohio Reformatory for Women, in Marysville, I was five months pregnant. So, I was quickly moved to Franklin Pre-Release Center, in Columbus. I had attended church a few times in the three weeks I spent in ORW, and even went up and asked for prayer for my baby; but, when they brought me to Franklin, I “backslid” again. I couldn’t understand the chaplain, so I used that as my excuse not to attend.

Shortly after my daughter was born, I was moved so that I could take care of my grandmother, who was in prison with me at that time. Walking through the hall one day, I saw choir practice going on in the dayroom. They were not singing, though; they were doing sign language. I was mesmerized, and God compelled me to go inside. I sat and watched, and I learned half of a song in about 15 minutes.

They said I was a natural. I asked if I could join and I was told “yes.” Then I was told the rules: church on Sunday was mandatory, even if we were not performing. I wasn’t very pleased by that rule, but I really wanted to do this, so I said, “Okay.”

All of this was in August of 2007, and in December I was being promoted to director. I haven’t missed a Sunday service in over a year, and I thank God for that ability to attend. The name of my choir is Cherubim, and I am so happy directing the choir members that I wouldn’t trade this position for anything.

We have five members right now, and one is trying to decide if she wants to join. God used Cherubim to bring me back to him and to teach me to stop “backsliding.” I pray that I am able to continue this ministry when I leave these walls, and I praise God for bringing me into it.

September 26, 2008

Grandpa

by Dawn Staples

When I was 11-years old, my mom got a call from my Grandpa. I don’t recall ever meeting him before then; maybe I did once or twice, but I’m not sure. Well, he wanted to take me to Tennessee. My dad did not want me to go, but the decision was left up to me. (I was a homesick kid, bad!) My mom figured Grandpa wanted to make up for all the time he had missed with his grandchildren. She told me that if I decided to go, I could pull the “homesick” thing and decide I wanted to come home for no reason. I wanted to go. It was Tennessee! Country, horses, cowboys…all the things I loved. And he said we would go to Dollywood. I was all for it. I told my mom and dad I would be a good girl. I promised not to get homesick and make Grandpa bring me home. And I promised I would be good.

Grandpa came to pick me up in a big-body blue car. I don’t remember the exact kind, but it was nice. The inside was all plush and the outside nice and clean. It was only obvious, in more ways than one, that he had money: on all of his fingers he had those really nice horseshoe rings, most of them with diamonds and rubies or emeralds, and gold nugget rings. At one point, he told me they would all be mine one day. He caught me staring at them. After many hugs and kisses to mommy and daddy, we were on our way. We stopped before we were out of town. We listened to county music, I enjoyed the scenery, and it was nice.

I’m sure I asked a million questions. I always have been a curious person. Even when I was a little person. One memory that sticks out is when we stopped at the store. Grandpa wanted some roast beef and something else, I can’t recall exactly what. He sent me in the store with a 50-dollar bill. I don’t think I had ever handled that much money before in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever really been responsible with money, and while I was supposed to be buying his stuff, I bought myself a Beanie Baby and a Mountain Dew. He said that was okay. And we were back on the road. I was staring out the window watching the scenery and I didn’t really notice when the car stopped. It took me a minute. When I realized the car had stopped I looked over to see why. My Grandpa was peeing in his cup-thing that he was supposed to use. He had been shot close to his spine, and he didn’t walk all that well. But, he hadn’t warned me not to look. When he saw that I saw him, he just laughed. I looked away and thought it was just an accident. We were soon back on the road again.

It wasn’t too much further before we crossed the Kentucky state line. I distinctly remember going under an overpass that said, “The Bluegrass State” in big blue letters. Not long after that, Grandpa stretched and said he was tired and that we should stop. It was still the middle of the day. We stopped at a fast food place and I got French fries. Then we went to a hotel – one of the ones with the big orange eight ball. We got inside and made ourselves comfortable. I still had most of my Mountain Dew left, and he started drinking his MD. He opened the grapefruit first and gave me a glass of “juice.” I didn’t like grapefruit so he opened the other kind – Banana Red. I didn’t like it so he mixed it with my Mountain Dew. I drank the whole pint! He gave me a “vitamin” because I was so small and it turned out to be speed.

Even though I was torn down and should have been dead, I remember what happened so clearly. He started telling me he was gonna stick his penis in me. He told me this over and over. He got a French tickler out of his little black bag and told me he was going to use it on me. At one point, I had gotten up and he grabbed me and put his hand down my pants. He asked me if it felt good and wouldn’t let me go. I told him “yes,” so he would let me go, and I went back to my chair and folded my legs up and wrapped my arms around them. He took his thing out and played for…I don’t even know how much time passed.

I was bewildered. I didn’t know what to do. I got up and started walking forward and I fell sideway on the bed and passed out. I woke up around 1:30 in the morning. We rented a two-bed room, but he was in bed with me. I had puked all over myself and we were both naked. I couldn’t find my clothes. I started calling home. I must have called 30 times between 1:30 and 5:00. The last message I left on the answering machine was, “Mommy, I think I’m dying. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. You have to come get me.” Between calls I got up to use the bathroom. I puked all over the bathroom floor and broke down crying. After I composed myself, I found some clothes in my duffle bag and put on my cowboy boots. I’d say that I looked silly in pajamas and cowboy boots, but that wasn’t on my mind at the time.

Once he woke up, I knew I couldn’t use the room phone anymore. I told him I wanted to go home. He kept trying to talk me out of it. I knew my mom got up at 6:30 for work, so I went to the receptionist and she let me call my mom. Mom said that she and Beth. were coming to get me. When I got back to the room, I was sitting outside the door and my Grandpa came to the door naked to get me. I was so embarrassed that he was standing at the door naked that I went in. He told me that if I loved my mom, I would have let her go on to work. I flipped out on him. I screamed and cussed at him, and when I was done we didn’t speak.

My mom got there and he left as soon as she did. I lay down in the backseat, and all I could do was stare at the floor. I didn’t know what to do. About 15 minutes into the ride home, my mom asked me what was wrong. She knew. I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know how to say it, so she asked. I remember her saying, “Baby, did he do something to you?” I said, “Yes,” and she lost it. She kept saying, “I should have known, I should have known,” and kept talking to Beth and freaking out.

We stopped at a rest stop and she got me Graham crackers and milk, and I told her what happened. She took me to the hospital. There were no signs of rape. I don’t think he could ever get an erection. The doctor said that with my size and the amount of alcohol I consumed, I should have died.

I forgot about the pill until after we left the hospital. We had to go back. They messed up my urine sample, so I had to pee again. I still tested positive for fastin and I could finally go home. My mom threw my Beanie Baby out the window on the highway doing 70 miles per hour.

September 26, 2008

How It Feels

by Dawn Staples

My Story? Sure. I can tell you that. I can tell you all about it. I can tell you about all the abuse I’ve been through and all the abuse I’ve put others through.

I can tell you that my only grandpa tried to molest met on a trip to Tennessee at 11-years old and only spent 28 days in jail for it.

I can tell you that my brother used to beat me because I annoyed him, and that my daddy used to call me a whore when I was still a virgin. I can tell you how I became one and, at the age of 21, I don’t know how many people I’ve been with.

I can tell you how, at this young age, I’ve spent over half my life on drugs and lost my first child because of them, and how I just gave birth to my first living baby here in prison, and today makes 12 weeks since I’ve seen her.

I can tell you that I have Hepatitis-C and don’t know how I got it, and that my daughter has to be tested for it again this month.

I can tell you all that without flinching. I can tell you anything you want to know about me; that is easy. The hard part is to tell you how all of that feels. You see, for me to tell you how it feels I have to feel it. And 90 percent of the time, I don’t. I haven’t in a long, long time.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m a monster because I can look at the pictures on my desk of my wedding day and my daughter and not feel anything. I love them, of course, but I just don’t feel the pain. I have the feelings; I just don’t allow myself to feel them. (If that makes any sense. It doest to me.) My mind knows how I feel; it just doesn’t make it to my heart. It doesn’t register.

I know that my brother beating me made me feel unloved and that my dad calling me a whore made me feel worthless. I know that being a whore made me feel dirty and that killing my baby, even though it wasn’t on purpose, made me feel it.

Numbness is automatic for me. I know that just thinking about these things I should be crying, but the walls are up. There’s a big difference between knowing and feeling, and it’s made of brick!

September 26, 2008

Common Sense

by Terrie Sramek

Growing up, I was taught that graduating from high school was very important in terms of getting a good paying job. When I expressed my interest in furthering my education through college, my dad’s response was, “You don’t need book sense. You need some common sense to succeed in life.”

At 17-years old, with my high school diploma and common sense under my belt, I was off to Washington D.C. to work for the F.B.I. It had been my typing and shorthand skills that got me the job. Over the next 18 years, I received on-the-job training through the various office manager positions I held. I even volunteered my skills to become the business manager to a state scholarship pageant (a preliminary pageant to the Miss America pageant).

Then my life drastically changed, and I was arrested. In jail, the CO’s and staff mocked me, often calling me the beauty queen and making remarks about how I wasn’t going to be living like a beauty queen in jail, and that the princess was going to be sleeping on the floor just like the others.

Actually, I was very depressed and grieving because I had taken the life of a person I loved. I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I closed myself off and tried to blend in and not show that I was a smart, successful woman. My employment skills proved to be an asset to me after I arrived in prison to begin a 15-to-life sentence.

After two weeks in admissions and being classified to “close” status, I was sent to interview for a clerk position in the administration building for the Social Security Administration. They needed a fast typist. I was hired on the spot.

For the next 11 years, I always had one of the best clerk positions (by prison standards) based on my excellent skills. I was able to do the jobs that paid staff was doing. I could do many things better and had far superior skills than paid staff. As time passed, technology advanced and was brought into the institution. Computers took over and the clerks’ positions were phased out as security issues became tighter. There were no more clerk positions for inmates, and we certainly couldn’t do the work we had been doing. Paid staff finally had to start doing their jobs.

I needed to focus on bettering my skills to keep up with the current technology. Education was the answer. I had already checked out the college education available when I got to prison, but because of my time, I could not go to school until I was five years from my parole board review. I, instead, learned a new trade by attending cosmetology school. After that, I eagerly awaited my turn to go to college. There were two schools offering a two-year Associate degree. By the time I was within the five-year, parole board mark, rehabilitation in the prison system was on the down side and prison became a place for correction. There were fewer vocational programs and one college offered a one-year certificate. The computer classes didn’t offer updated programs.

Today, I await whatever programming and groups are available. I crave the knowledge of the new technology. I can read about the new gadgets, but cannot get any hands-on experience in prison.

Because of this, I fear being released at times. The distorted thoughts run rampant through my brain. If I make my next parole in 2011, who is going to hire a 56-year old woman who has skills from the fossil age? How can I be a productive citizen to society if I don’t have the updated skills to get a job? Who’s going to hire someone knocking on the doors of Social Security? They can’t call it age discrimination, but perhaps it happens all the time. These basic, self-imposed limitations have me in prison in my mind.

However, through the program, The Psychology of Incarceration, I have been able to identify and label those self-imposed limitations and distorted thoughts. I realize that if I do not heal behind these bars, I will leave more incarcerated than before.

I am fortunate as I have some time in which I can continue to work on myself, utilizing the information and tools I got from the class.

But, come 2011, there is a world waiting out there for me. A world waiting to challenge me. Bring it on, because I know I can do it.

With my book sense and common sense working together, I can find and maintain the right balance in my life. The healthier I am, the more I can help others.

September 26, 2008

Letting Go

by R.H.
September 2008

Letting go used to be so hard to do. Was it natural to keep everything inside that bothered you? And why? How was it healthy to keep it inside?

All you did was break down and cry.

Is it a human instinct to not know how to bury all the pain that remains? I am asking myself, “Why?” Do I like to cry? Did I like to feel miserable? Did I like to be on the verge of committing suicide: “That’s crazy shit,” I thought. There were times I couldn’t control my anger, so I was bitter toward my loved one, toward myself, and all those that were strangers.

Sometimes you can’t help but remember your past – why? Did I feel better when I would take a big ol’ blast; I guess I did. “Stupid,” I suppose I’m thinking. It’s not really only that I just didn’t know how to let go of all the bullshit I had done. I didn’t know how to let go. Stealing money, lying, cheating, and being a fiend. Oh, my God, you hear those words? That was really me.

But, you see, the Big Words were, “Does anybody notice all the good shit she does?” I don’t know; in a way I don’t care. If I worry what they think, I’m not even halfway there. I’m going somewhere because I’ve learned to let go. And since then, I’ve seen the change in a girl that wants to grow.

You see, you have to really want to let go of all that can come between you and your growth toward achievement. Letting go is a beautiful thing if you just “let go.” And leave it. Enjoy life, make the best of it. Ask God to help you strive when you feel that you want to quit.

Here I am today, looking around and enjoying the sun. Loving me. Excited about the person I have become and that I’m going to be. Because I have let go, and as a result I am learning how to grow. Letting go – damn, that wasn’t so bad, as I look back now on the pain I used to have. Today I am free to turn into that flower I can be.

Do I want it? “Hell, yeah,” I say. What else it there to do but let go of the past and learn to love you. It feels good, doesn’t it, R.? And look: I’ve learned to say my name. I will never be the same. This is who I am, even if no one else accepts me. I still will take a stand for the person I have become, because I let go of all the shit I’ve held within out of which I was too scared to allow myself to grow.

Thank you, God.

Thank you for loving me today. And now I’m proud of who I am for letting go today.

Writing, to me, helps me to relieve the stress – the anger also involved that leads me to danger. It fills my heart with anticipating of what is ahead in my life. I’m excited, overwhelmed, and completely secure with me. I know who I can talk to: that person is me.

When I speak to myself about my own fears, it just builds me up more as I shift my gears. I let go, and I let God guide me all the way. He knows my heart’s desires and my pain He’ll take away. Letting go has turned into “Let go.” I will go-go-go until I can’t go no more.

Love, me.

September 26, 2008

Remember

by R.H.

I remember turning 22 and was full of energy and life. My mother threw me a birthday party. That’s where I thought I met the man of my dreams. He was kind of short and well-built. He was very attractive, had a nice smile, and he seemed to be interested in me.

I began to converse with him and found him even more interesting. Oh, my, was he everything that I wanted. I had a few dates with him and started taking rides to his apartment. Ok, single man, own place, good job, attractive, and interested in me. Who could want more?

About three months into our relationship, I became pregnant with my first child. I was ecstatic. When I told him, things changed. He began to act differently. He wanted me to be silent about my pregnancy. Something was not quite right. I later found out that he was married with two daughters, and I was very hurt.

After the birth of my son, his wife found out and divorced him. Now, he was ready to be with me. Isn’t that funny? I later found out that he was addicted to cocaine. He would use it during our intimate moments. I found that to be something I would like to try. He never stopped me. Instead, he said to only do this when we were together. “Right,” I said. So, I continued using powder cocaine and loved it.

About one year later, he was doing something different. He was putting powder cocaine in the marijuana. Oh, boy, was I ready to jump right into anything to keep him at home with me. Big mistake.

As time went by, I went to crack cocaine itself. Ok, game over. Life over. Time for prayer. I fell off track, lost him, lost my apartment, quit school, and quit my job. I lost interest in everything and everyone. I was no longer that vibrant, ready-to-succeed young girl. I became a self-destructive, no-thought-for-anyone-else kind of person. It was just my drugs and me.

Six years have passed and now I sit in prison doing an 18-month sentence for possession of cocaine. Who would have thought? Not me.

I remember coming in pregnant, not wanting to change because I thought I couldn’t. That’s a lie. I began to ask God to help me. I began to use my time in a positive way, really digging deep within myself to find who I am. Today, I am 12 days away from my release. My time has turned into an Answered Prayer. I’m on my way out of here totally ready to a change.

Had it not been for my God and the support of some women here and a will to change, I would be the same old me. I’m leaving here with no regret of my past because it’s brought me to a positive future. I’m proud of myself today. I’m continuing my Journey of Success by going to a recovery program on my own, in order to better me as a person and to better myself as a mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and aunt.

God knew what He was doing when he put His hand in the mess I was creating. My prayer has been answered. No more pain, much more to gain. It’s ok for tears to get past my fears. Greatness is ahead as I make a new bed. My future is to achieve, because today I believe. Thank God for a second chance. Now it’s for Him I will dance.

September 26, 2008

Woman’s Day

by Jessie Mabrey
You were a beautiful child. From the time you were four-years old watching The Cosby Show with me. I promised you that when you had your first menstrual cycle we would celebrate.

We talked often over the next seven years, planning what we would do, where we would go, and how much fun we would have celebrating your first step into womanhood. I wanted to create a lasting memory of an important milestone in your life. A memory you could pass to your own daughter one day.

A promise lost, a memory replaced with a nightmare reality. Our Woman’s Day, where was it spent? On a phone in the county jail, looking at each other through a plate glass window, you asked me, “Why?” I had no answer, only tears and sorrow for hurting my precious baby.

Fourteen years have passed and though we can touch each other now, it’s only allowed at the beginning and end of our visits. You’re a woman now and a mother. So many lasting memories are lost. I can’t it back, can I?

You want no more promises from me. I don’t blame you. I’m humbled by your forgiveness. You are a beautiful woman.

September 26, 2008

Another Chance for Me — an excerpt from “I’m Still Here”

by Latasha Humphries

Dear God,

Please forgive me for failing you and my children, our children that you have entrusted me with.  I ask for another chance to care for my children.  Please watch over me as I take this journey, protect those that I love and love them until I can be there again.  I pray that my children are doing good; I miss them so much, but I know that I will get to see them again.  I pray for vindication and freedom.

Dear God, you know my heart and my spirit, please give me and bless me with physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional freedom.  I ask for peace; this body is so tired and my soul is old.  I ask that you forgive me all of my sins, past, present, and future.   Help me to accept these things and give me the strength to forgive myself.  Teach me utter forgiveness for myself and for others.  I thank you for all that you have blessed me with and continue to do for my loved ones, even those blessings that I am not able to see or know.  I ask these things in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

September 26, 2008

Spending or Investing

by Aaron Bass

 

One thing that I always ask myself is, “Am I spending or investing in my life?” I heard this on the radio and it’s been in my heart ever since.

As a Christian, I would like to think that I invest at all times. When reading Matthew 6:19-24, I begin to have a much richer understanding of how to invest spiritually. In this day and time, this world revolves around materialism and one spending his life trying to enjoy the material objects. When we invest our lives more toward spiritual things in heaven, we also will be investing in our natural lives in this world.

Nothing of this world will fill the void that is continually in our hearts.

It’s really only by Jesus Christ, I believe, that this void may be filled, and I speak the truth when I say that he will fill you with all goodness. I would much rather invest in heaven which, in return, will give me eternal life more than the things of this world will give. Just look at what St. Peter and St. John said in the book of Acts 3:3-7: “I don’t have any silver or gold. But, I’ll give you what I have in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Get up and walk.”

Now, these brothers knew about investing, right?

I pray in the name of Christ that whoever reads this narrative will look at his or her life and ask, “Am I spending or investing my life?” Start investing every second of every day toward the place Jesus taught us to invest in: “where moths and rust do not destroy” – heaven.