My Time In Jail
How it all started.
It wasn’t what I expected at all.
But then again, how would you know what to expect?
I was there to start a program on teaching women self-esteem. I had somehow gotten talked into this by my friend Mary who knew Lucy. Lucy was the Program Director at this facility which housed convicted women felons.
Yes, you could say they needed some help in the area of self-esteem. Many of them had been abused and had obviously taken a wrong turn earlier in life.
And now I was supposed to teach them about self-esteem?
How does a person do this that has never been in jail?
Where do you start?
And, just as important, what do you wear? I mean really, what is the protocol? I wasn’t going to wear a jumpsuit and I knew not to wear a suit, so I decided to do the usual business casual without jewelry.
And in case you are curious, Miss Manners and Emily Post have not written one word about this in all of their writings. I know because I checked.
Both Mary and Lucy assured me I would be safe and that it would be fun and very beneficial. These women were going to be released in the near future and would need help and guidance to stay on the right path.
I racked my brains for a week prior to starting the class and I did not know what to say or do. I am not a public speaker and do much better one-on-one, but I had agreed because my heart-strings had been pulled.
And I have to admit my own morbid fascination about “those people.” Yeah, you know the ones I am talking about. The ones that have nothing to do with us. The ones that aren’t as good as us. The ones who are “over there” doing “bad stuff” that the rest of us have to pay for.
So I agreed. I wanted to know about this part of life that I had no exposure or interaction with. I wanted to hear their stories and learn and maybe, just maybe, offer some hope and help.
They were being released. They were coming back into my neighborhood and it would never stop. That’s the system and whether or not I liked it, it is the way it is.
So I decided to put my money where my mouth was, step up to the plate, as see what I could do.
But as hard as I tried, I didn’t know where to start. I decided I would just arrive and figure something out.
The facility was actually quite nice and clean. I was given the dining room to use. It was night, everyone had been fed and the room cleaned up.
As soon as I walked in, I realized I should have asked for a podium. There were only chairs, which meant there was no buffer between me and them. I could not hide. I had no place to sit. I was wearing high heels on a cement floor. I was going to have to stand and lecture for two hours. I had no place for my notes but that was OK; I didn’t have any notes.
I just had me.
It was going to have to be enough.
I was given a group of 20 women, all different ages, race and background. The demographics were all over the board. Lucy had asked me who I wanted to work with and all I had told her was.
It didn’t matter where they came from. A poor, black battered woman had the same problem as an affluent, white woman.
They had been beaten and were now in jail.
I stood there as they filed in with the guards. Some glared at me, some ignored me, some smiled at me and some just looked at the floor.
They grabbed their chairs, formed a half circle, folded their arms, kicked back in their chairs and glared at me.
I smiled. No one smiled back. Some sneered. Some looked me up and down in disgust. Others looked away defiantly and one or two gave me a slight smile. I silently cursed myself for being such a fool as to expect that I could make a difference or that what I had to say was even important.
I wanted the earth to open up at that exact moment and swallow me.
But instead I cleared my throat, tried to think of something brilliant to say and opened my mouth to speak.
Little did I know that what I said would have such a huge impact on these women and on me for the rest of my life.