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From Turmoil to Love A Prisoners Story
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ATAC

From Turmoil to Love: A Prisoner Story

"l feel like prison can do one of two things; it can make you bitter, or it can make you better. The choice is up to the individual and how they choose to do their sentence."

By Anonymous

What can I teach the world from my prison experience? That is a great question and not one
that I can fully answer. Being incarcerated is not something a lot of people will experience and unless
they do, they will never understand the turmoil and despair a person goes through when going to
prison. Nor will they understand the acceptance and love for the people around them that are sharing
the same experience. I do not think that I can teach the world anything, but what I can do is share my
story, and hopefully, someone might have a different point of view about incarceration.

I arrived at Perryville Prison at about 9 am, after being up all night in a cell waiting to be
transported from Maricopa County Estrella Jail. lt was instant confusion and chaos, not to mention the
underlining doom I felt about starting my 10-year sentence. This is when the reality of my situation and
my future set in. I spent all day filling out paperwork, and getting poked and prodded like an animal
being purchased for slaughter. Honestly, this is how I felt, like an animal about to spend the next decade
in a cage (not too far from the truth). After that horrible and exhausting first day, I spent the next month
in R and A. This is where they house inmates until ADCRR (Arizona Department of Correction
Rehabilitation and Reentry) decides your custody level. lt is the in-between stage between the county
jail and being in an actual prison. For me, R and A was a horrible experience. I was not given underwear
and was not able to use feminine hygiene products, which was humiliating for me. I was not provided a
toothbrush, and when I advised the shift commander, he instructed me to use my finger to brush my
teeth. The light in my room was broken, so at 5 pm when the sun went down, my night was over and I
had no choice but to go to sleep. I spent a month there and often cried myself to sleep. I prayed and
hoped I would have the strength to make it through the next eight and a half years in this hell.

It was hard to stop living “in the real world” when I first arrived. I did not want to surrender my
life and face the reality that this was now my new home. I had children that needed me, a spouse that
adored me, and a family that loved me. How could I let all that go? The answer is, I didn’t! I continued to
try and live my life out there from behind prison walls, and that is hard time. Depression and despair set
in. The knowledge that this is my new reality and my total loss of control hit me and I didn’t have one
single person to lean on. I was absolutely 100% alone. I was required to function in this foreign
environment, where the rules constantly change depending on the individual running the unit. I cried
every day and iried my best to make do with the hand I was dealt. After about six months, I became
acquainted with people and started to socialize. A person (now a dear friend) came up to me around this
time and said, “lf you keep living out there, and thinking about the time you have left to do, you are not
going to make it. Think about what you have to do today, and don’t think beyond the next 24 hours.” Of
course, that is easier said than done. “Live in the now”, “the present is a gift”, I could go on and on
about the quotes that say something along these lines, but does anyone ever do it? ln prison, that is the
only way I can survive, by only focusing on today!

l feel like prison can do one of two things; it can make you bitter, or it can make you better. The
choice is up to the individual and how they choose to do their sentence. Plenty of people do nothing
with their time. They stay on the unit, play cards, sleep, and do nothing productive with their lives, This
is their choice. I chose to let this experience make me better. I followed my friend’s advice, I started to
live in the here and now and focus on the things I was able to control. Once I made that choice and
accepted that I was here in prison and this was my Iife, living became a whole lot easier. I have a
retention job and am saving for my future. I work out and practice yoga, which has been life-changing.
Now I teach a yoga class every Saturday. I decided I wanted to help other women be able to get into
college, so I teach a class on how to get your student loans out of default. Being incarcerated forced me
to live in the present each day. Prison did not change me, rehabilitate me, or make me a better person, I
did. I realized if I tried to make each day a good day, that equates to a happy life.

Once I accepted my sentence, I became a much happier person. I share that joy with the people
around me and love the friends that are on this journey with me. I have met some amazing, beautiful,
intelligent women inside prison. This experience is probably the most devastating thing that most of us
will go through, and we rely on each other for love and comfort. When people think of prison, they think
of hardcore criminals, thugs, thieves, and murders. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Some of us
are mothers, nurses, and lawyers. Some of us are broken, drug addicts, and alcoholics. All of us are
women who made a mistake, but that mistake does not define us. We are so nruch more than the
mistakes that we have made. I have met lifelong friends while incarcerated, people I am proud to call
friends. I have spent the last seven years of my life with some of these women and can honestly say I am
grateful to share my life with them.

Prison is about perception. I can perceive my sentence as a punishment or as an opportunity. I
can allow the turmoil and despair to make me bitter, or I can embrace all the acceptance and love and
allow it to make me better. The choice is ultimately mine. Prison did not rehabilitate me nor hinder me,
but it has provided me the opportunity to focus on myself. How I move forward with that opportunity is
up to me. At the end of the day, happiness is not about where you are but who you are.

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