Cassandra, 61

There are many things about my past that I wish I could change but, I probably wouldn’t be the strong, black woman I am today.

Incarcerated: 5 years
Housed: Lockhart Correctional Facility, Texas

I have been on drugs for over 30 years and in and out of jails and prisons. Every time I am before a judge, I was never offered rehab. When I asked for it, it was denied. What? Was I not good enough for rehabilitation?

My addiction has caused me to do things that were against my nature. I’ve done things that were against my parents values that were instilled in me. But nevertheless, I know that my life does have meaning. There are many things about my past that I wish I could change, but then I wouldn’t be the strong, black woman I am today. Today, I have been able to forgive myself for some of my choices, disappointments and hurts. More importantly, I understand the larger forces that have affected me and my entire family and this has led me to want a better life.

I now fight for my right to be the best I can be. I know that I can not do this all by myself. With God as my leader, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. I know that I must go through this valley to get to the mountain top. God has my life in his hands and very soon He will release me to freedom. I will soar like an eagle. Thank you for listening and most of all thank you for this organization. You will be hearing from me and my family again.

Cheryl, 53

Cheryl, 53

Meet Cheryl…

Now I’m going to sit back in this dark damp mildewed cell and watch her soar, she will never tire – only fly.

A menace. A failure. A convict. A felon. A loser. That’s what society calls me, but I am determined to be better. I am more than a number.

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, and a daughter. I don’t want to languish. I want to flourish. Even in a prison cell I am determined to be part of my daughter’s life. She is an exception of what society says she will be because of me. I am grateful for her forbearance and forgiveness and she will be great in spite of me. I have been incarcerated for four years, which means I missed all of her high school years. I have missed milestones that can never be relieved.

I don’t write this for pity, just sharing my pain. I was just denied parole again. Sometimes I sit in agony because I can never speak to the parole board. They only know me from a file, a folder – I wish they knew me. Texas should really consider allowing offenders to speak with them in person. I feel misrepresented because it’s only what they write.

Parole reform is worth visiting. In the meantime, I will take joy in knowing that my daughter is starting the blueprint of her life. I have watched her grow. Now I’m going to sit back in this dark damp mildewed cell and watch her soar, she will never tire – only fly. While she flies, I am attempting to get rid of regret and work on forgiving myself,  just not sure how to really do it. It sounds simple, but what does forgiving yourself mean? How does it feel? How will I know I have accomplished it? It’s hard in here, and in saying that doesn’t mean I don’t accept responsibility, it’s just a fact – it’s hard! Its lonely, racism is rising, the food is questionable, the shower is hairy, the conversations are shallow, so most days I’m running on spiritual, mental and physical reserves.

However, I will make it through this season of my life and I will rise above the negativity. I often think that all the good I’ve done in my life, I will most be remembered for this – it’s simply life. Fair or not, it’s life.

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