Melissa, 42

Melissa, 42

Meet Melissa…

Family is everything and time is precious with them.

Melissa, 42
Incarcerated: 24 years
Housed: Albemarle Correctional Institute, NC

I was born and raised in Hawaii. A very peaceful place that didn’t have racism, social classes, or what’s in and what’s not in school. When the military moved us to North Carolina, they needed my dad, my parents said, “What fun!” I felt like he was taking me from all I knew and loved, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and animals! No matter how many times I tried to hide in my closet, he found me and so off we moved with my siblings and mother. It was a culture shock. I became an introvert and decided to figure life out by myself. That’s when I found Lisa Frank stickers and fell immediately in love with them. I was in 5th grade and in my young mind I believed that by her stickers I’d learn how life works. I went by those stickers to teach me how to fit in. It wasn’t until sometime in middle school that my mind was totally blown and I found out those Lisa Frank stickers lied to me. I thought that all cats were girls and all dogs were boys and when they got together and had babies they would have both cats and dogs in their litter. I found out all this was a lie when one of my friends told me his dog gave birth to a litter of 6 puppies! I was like, “What!!! there’s girl dogs too?!?!” I figured from that point on I needed to ask more questions instead of trying to figure things out myself. I was incarcerated at 18, a year after highschool. At 42, I still love Lisa Frank but know that life can only be learned by living it and doing your best and never give up, no matter what life may throw your way. Family is everything and time is precious with them.

Rebekah, 41

Rebekah, 41

Meet Rebekah…

My daughter is my role model, woman, sister, adult, even though she has no kids, she’s my parent at times.

Rebekah, 41
Incarcerated: 5 years
Housed: McPherson Unit, Newport, Arkansas

The hood behind the walls.

From childhood into adulthood. From womanhood into parenthood. At 41, I am once again, behind these walls. The years I can’t get back are gone. My daughter is my role model, woman, sister, adult, even though she has no kids, she’s my parent at times. She stuck by me praying and helping. The one I call in my hood, when I need advice. The one who never abandoned me, as I did her as a child. 

This time these walls talk to me and have shown me the hoods. In one way or another it’s the hood to us all. This year is finally not wasted. All the things I never grew to know all these years. It can be the ghetto, where you learn to be bad. Or it can grow life, teaching us all the hoods. From childhood, adulthood, womanhood, motherhood. With the help of the hood and a special woman I look up to, my daughter, Kalie. This time I found life in the Hood.

Detric, 25

Detric, 25

Meet Detric…

I was taken away from my mother by the Department of Human Services at the age of 11, due to an unstable foundation. It never stopped me from loving her.

Incarcerated: 2 years
Housed: Little Rock, Arkansas

It was a burden I thought I could never lift off me, facing 20 years at the age of 22. I prayed night and day for answers on how I would make it through. The more I prayed the more things seemed to get worse. My mother used to visit me, but eventually stopped. Then, I received a letter informing me that my mother was in jail with me. It hurt me deeply to even imagine my mother in the same orange jumpsuit I was in, eating from the same county jail trays I was eating from. I was taken away from my mother by the Department of Human Services at the age of 1, due to an unstable foundation. It never stopped me from loving her. Neither does her drug habits or mental illness. I also never stopped praying and keeping hope. I encourage everyone out there to never give up. I’m now facing less time incarcerated, with a mother who just graduated community college and her drug treatment program. My mother has been doing great and staying healthy, and soon we’ll be together.

Rebecca, 33

Rebecca, 33

Meet Rebecca…

I always try to be optimistic. When they told me I would never walk again, in my mind I told myself I could. I’ve always had a habit of going for things people say I won’t achieve.

Incarcerated: 10 years

Housed: McPherson Women’s Unit, Newport, Arkansas

I was running from the police and broke my back by jumping out a two story window. It instantly paralyzed me from the waist down. The doctors said I would never walk again. I have two rods and a cage in my back. I always try to be optimistic. When they told me I would never walk again, in my mind I told myself I could. I’ve always had a habit of going for things people say I won’t achieve. Within a few months, I ended up pregnant with my daughter, Ivanna. I continued with my criminal lifestyle and within nine months, I was in jail. Two days later, I went into labor in prison. Due to my 30 year sentence, where I have to serve seven years, my rights were taken. The state put my daughter up for adoption after I was only given three days with her. I was going through such a hard time. I didn’t understand why all this pain kept happening to me. A year later, I was taken out to court with a U.S. Marshal hold. I was being federally indicted with a new arrest warrant. On top of my 30 year state sentence, they say I’m looking at a life sentence in federal prison. While in federal court, I met a 19 year old Mexican girl, Martha Pulido. She said I was the mother she never had. She couldn’t speak English so I taught her. Everyday she would get up and exercise my legs. Because of her, I was able to walk by the time I came back from federal court. Don’t get me wrong, my legs are still weak and I fall all the time. Ten years later, I am no longer in a wheelchair. I do wear a brace on my right leg. In the process of being paralyzed, I lost myself by letting my insecurities and low self-esteem get in the way. I have to remind myself that the greatest battles are won during the midst of a storm and my scars are full of stories of when life tried to break me and failed. I’ve done this time by myself, with no help or financial support,  but I have overcome obstacles most people in life couldn’t. My determination has paid off. I will be leaving here in six months to go to federal prison where I should be released shortly thereafter, since I’ve done the majority of my time here. 📸Rebecca’s Mom, Mary

Kathy, 60

Kathy, 60

Meet Kathy…

Telling my story sets me free from these walls. I hope to carry on my mission and help women with trauma. What was meant for bad can be turned to good.

Incarcerated: 7 years
Housed: McPherson’s Women’s Unit – Newport, Arkansas

I am taking classes and believe that education is important. I like to crochet and draw portraits, both are relaxing. Being locked up is lonely. I love life and family. In prison the last seven years I’ve learned a lot about myself. I enjoy school and learning new things.  Getting my GED and enrolling in college classes transformed me into a new person. One who has compassion and understanding of society unlike before prison. I have learned to interact with others on a level of comfort and peace instead of turmoil and violence which were learned in my childhood home full of domestic violence, abuse, and alcoholism. I have also learned how to overcome abuse and anorexia through writing, drawing and crocheting. Teaching a domestic violence support group in my barracks has helped me. I sell crocheted items to the free world to support myself. There has to be a better way.  Telling my story sets me free from these walls. I hope to carry on my mission and help women with trauma. What was meant for bad can be turned to good.