I thought I had a game plan coming home. I was told that I could renew my insurance license, I figured I’d need to take some continuing education, and all would be well with the world. I also had a plan to re-start doing consulting work that I had begun right before going back to jail to finish my sentence. I spent time while incarcerated to start taking business classes. I was excited about it, but it turned out to be nothing more than lessons in how to use Microsoft office products. I took the course for a few months, then ended up leaving to go to SCI Phoenix. When I returned from that mess, the classes were all on hold and the teacher left for another position elsewhere. When you take classes, you get paid for those as well as your job or general population pay. When I originally started the classes there, I was working in the chapel library. My job was to keep the library clean, organized, check books in and out. I also worked the sound system on Sundays or during other events that needed the sound system to be operated. Once, Charlie Batch, retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers came to speak at SCI Cambridge Springs. I had met him before during a charity basketball game. I talked to him for a while, and he actually remembered the event. He’s a great guy and does a lot of charity work for the area he grew up in near Pittsburgh. When I came home, it became evident quickly that getting my insurance license back wasn’t going to be as easy as it was explained to me. They wanted me to pay to take a pre-licensing class that cost just under $400. Money I really didn’t have or want to spend at the time. It was suggested that since I have a record, that I complete the application to be pre-screened for approval. The way this is set up, it leads you to believe that if you complete this paperwork, give them everything they need in order to review your case that they will then let you know if they would approve your or not to obtain a license. I thought, this is great! I completed it and waited and waited. I finally decided to follow up with them. I was then advised that they were waiting on me to take this pre-licensing class. I said Well what is the purpose of taking the pre-screening part? I’m not paying that kind of money to only be denied. It’s a money racket, it really is! I then talked to the head of the agency that handles most of the continuing education for insurance. He suggested that I wait about a year and decide if I still wanted to try. I honestly, had pretty much moved on from this endeavor and started taking online courses to maximize the knowledge I already had relating to digital marketing. I knew that I was growing to love it, and it was a completely new chapter for me in my career. My husband was worried because insurance had been long time career for me. I was willing to take the chance. I was applying to jobs on average 5-10 times a day to several online employment websites. The days ticked by and I’d either get no response, a typical “thank you for applying, but..”, or I’d get a request for some off the wall interview. Scammers are now using these websites to try to prey on people trying to find honest work. Some were easy to pick out, others would want you to download weird messaging apps. As the time went out, it became very discouraging. I could only keep praying and telling the Lord that I believed in his plan. If you’ve been following my blog, I posted earlier about Katie Souza. How reading her books really spoke to me and changed how I looked at some things. I was applying for jobs the one night and there it was, Katie Souza Ministries was hiring for a position that was perfect for me. I applied immediately. I included in my cover letter that I had a record and how her ministry really helped me get through my ordeal. Several weeks went by and I was contacted by another firm that I had interviewed for previously. I really liked this position and enjoyed my interview that I had with them. Our move to our new home was coming up quickly. Our realtor did everything she could for us to make sure that I could be present during this one. The day she called us to tell us that she was not only able to move the location, but she was also able to move the date up ahead of schedule. That very same day, I receive a job offer from the company that I had met with and really liked. I started shortly after we moved into our new home. I needed time to be able to unpack and find my desk, organize my office and my house. A few days later, I opened my email to see that Katie Souza wanted to interview me. My heart jumped out of my chest. I was so excited that I didn’t know what to do. I prayed about it, I talked to my husband and mom about it. Something in my gut wasn’t right. This isn’t the job that the Lord provided to me. The job that I thought was my “dream job”. I could feel that it wasn’t right. The Lord kept reminding me of a sermon that I heard from Michael Todd. Michael Todd is the Pastor of Transformation Church and also appears on TBN. I loved watching his programs during my incarceration. I was glued to the tv listening to him and hanging on every word. The sermon that the Lord kept reminding me of was Michael Todd telling everyone how his dream was to produce music, to be famous and the eventually the Lord convicted his heart and said that was Mike’s dream but not the Lord’s. The Lord told him that he never consulted with him about what his plans were for Mike. We need to consult with the Lord in all of our plans. We can’t go ahead of him, not included him, then get mad at him when things don’t work out. We then expect him to clean up our mess we made or say, Lord where are you? I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so I really try to go to the Lord with everything. The hardest part a lot of times is waiting for his response.
When this entire thing started with me, the Lord started showing me a verse. The verse is one that I never saw before, but it would become MY verse. My verse in knowing when the Lord was with me and speaking to me. Isaiah 40:31 tell us, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” I can’t begin to tell you the number of times this verse would show up out of nowhere to me. One time, I borrowed a book from the library in jail and a piece of paper fell out. It contained this verse. I know that this entire experience made me stronger and more insightful to so many different things. I look at life in general differently than I did before. I look at people differently than I did before. Being in prison, you can see the amount of hurt and dispare that others have gone through in their lives. You realize that people act and react the way that they do because over time it’s become a defense mechanism. It’s easier to act like you don’t care, bucause caring is feeling. If you don’t care, you don’t feel. It’s all just a facade. Deep down inside they care and want to feel. It just hurts too much to feel and care. Some have gone to other ways to numb that pain. Addiction doesn’t have to be drugs or alcohol. It can be anything done excessively more than the normal person might do. This entire thing has brought a lot of hurt, pain a trauma to many. Everyone has developed their own way of dealing and moving on. I hate that phrase “moving on”. Do we ever really “move on”? People often say, “I want things to get back to normal”. Maybe the normal we knew before wasn’t as great as we thought that it was? What if the new normal is or could be better than anything we could possibly imagine? So, what normal was might not be the plans the Lord has for us. If we go back to what “was”, did we ever really learn anything? The Lord has us wait sometimes so that we can grow and learn. When we rush that process and try to do things in our own timing, that is not the Lord’s plans but ours. Think of when you plan a tree. You’re not going to plant a tree that’s going to grow into a tall oak tree on the side of a sandy hill? The soil over time, probably is NOT going to support the root system. The Lord wants us to be planted on a solid foundation. One that we can learn and grow and be strong. Waiting isn’t the Lord telling us no. It might just mean, not right now. Be patient and lean not on your own understanding. Ask the Lord to reveal to you the amazing plans he has for your life. Thank him every day for not only the blessings he’s given us, but the blessings that are yet to come.
The board is ready!
Three and half years, I waited for this day to come. I knew the Lord had already told me that I was going home. I had prepared for this day from day one. I let the officer know that I was there for my Parole board hearing and waiting to hear my name to be called. I was there with a couple of other ladies that I knew from my unit. As, I heard my name I walked up the steps to meet the officer who would be sitting in my hearing that day. She took me in to the conference room that I was shown a month earlier. I was told to sit at a specific chair and that the board would appear via Zoom in a few minutes. The chair was sitting at a weird angle that made me feel uncomfortable. It was set so that they could see you on the screen, but it was an un-natural way of sitting at a table. The officer sat in a chair about 2 seats in front of me, her back to me. I think that was a way of giving me a sense of privacy. I appreciated the gesture. Two men appeared on the screen. They introduced themselves, said hello and I introduced myself in the most professional way possible. I wasn’t uncomfortable with the idea of having a zoom meeting because working in an office as long as I had this wasn’t unusual. The people I was meeting was the nerve ending part. The first man seemed to be the “good cop”. He asked me questions about my family, what I intended to do when I left. Warm up questions. He then asked me about the day that brought me before him. I had gone over this in my mind so many times, I knew it well. The story didn’t get any earier to tell. He asked me some follow up questions, as if surprised. The reaction I see often when I tell this story. I know he asked me a few other questions, but I can’t remember them specifically. Next was the “bad cop”. He actually wasn’t that bad, but he asked the tougher questions. The question that he asked me though was only one question and I knew it was to see my reaction. I was actually glad he asked the question that he did because it was the one that if I was him, I would have wanted an answer to as well. It was the one question that I prepared for. That right there was the Lord’s doing! He looked at me and asked, “You seem very remorseful and have taken responsibility. When, are you taking responsibility now, and why did you file for an appeal?” I looked at him, calm and responded to him. “Sir, you’re absolutely right. I did file for an appeal. I took a huge risk in doing so, knowing that I could be facing more time if I did this. I’d never been in trouble before or in jail before. I was scared to death. Everyone that talked to my family, and even other attorneys encouraged me to file an appeal because of different aspects of the case that wasn’t adding up. I was told that I had 10 days to make that decision. After, I became acclimated and had I had more time to decide, I wouldn’t have filed for the appeal. I actually tried to request it to be withdrawn and I was told that wasn’t possible. I don’t know if that is correct or not. I was following the advice of counsel. I wanted to withdraw my request because I realized that by doing this I was not only putting the families through this again, but my family and the community. I was not trying to revictimize anyone. I realized that by doing this that is what was happening. If, I had the chance or know what I know now, I wouldn’t have filed for an appeal.” He looked at me stunned. He didn’t have any further questions. I was dismissed and left with no feeling of a yes or no. I would have just have to wait AGAIN. We saw the board on a Thursday. The following week by about Wednesday, all but two of us were on the call out to go to the parole office. They all came back stating that they were denied and had to waiting another 6 months, 9 months, etc. to be able to see them again. I was not part of that group. I thought to myself, “ok, this has to be a good sign”. They have 10 weeks to let you know, by 6 weeks you can send a request asking for the status. It was now 6 weeks, no word. I wrote a response, and they heard nothing. I ran into my counselor, and she said to me, “you did really well”. I took that as a positive too that she knew something. I waited almost the entire alotted time until I finally went to the parole office for my decision. I walked up, sat down and was shaking more than when I saw the board. This 8.5×11 piece of paper had the answer on it. I was so scared; I could hardly read it. She wouldn’t just tell me. She made me read it. I felt like it was slowest that I ever read anything in my life. I felt like the world was moving in slow motion. Then I saw it. The answer. I saw it. I looked up at her and she says, “there’s good news and bad news”.
You need a new lawyer!
Today I was looking for something unrelated to the post I was going to make today. I have been trying to look up ways to promote my cookbook that I wrote. (Check out this link here: https://amzn.to/3Qeb5dM) I stumbled upon a post that a friend of mine made, whom I’ve been friends with since middle school. The post was my address and inmate number for the county jail where I was staying. She had asked people to send me cards, letters, etc. to cheer me up! I didn’t know this, but even today it made me smile. The responses were even more heart-warming, as they were from some folks, I didn’t know at all. Other comments were from folks that I’ve known just as long. if not longer. The comments weren’t about the request, but instead asking first who I was. Once people realized who I was and put two and two together they immediately said they felt “I didn’t have a good lawyer”. A few things that I learned through this entire process was that you don’t hire a lawyer from the same county as your crime. That statement I heard from several folks while in county jail. I suppose if you want to know who a good lawyer is, ask someone who’s familiar with the process. Most people feel that by hiring a lawyer from the same county is a conflict of interest because they are all part of the same “boys club”, country club, social club, etc. They also have to face each other day in and day out in the court room. It’s believed that they save their “favors” to ask the prosecution for when they need to really cash them in. While I like to think that’s not the case, you can witness for yourself the joking and laughing going on in between court sessions. It’s a job to them and at the end of the day, they can go home and rest regardless. I found myself very frustrated by the entire court/justice system process. Again, “innocent before being proved guilty” isn’t quite true. It’s more like quality until you prove otherwise and good luck with that! When you are charged with a crime part of the process is to receive discovery from the DA’s office. As I received this information, I immediately started coming up with information for my lawyer to address that didn’t jibe. Some of the photos included weren’t from our home, the cell phone records were from only one person. I constantly asked for a subpoena to be done to request the cell records of another person involved. The account that we did have info from was a shared account and the info provided was cherry picked by the co-owner of the account. That part was at least addressed in a motion to the court; however, nothing was ever said about it. I knew for a fact that many records were deleted, and some were only part of the entire text (I had the entire text to bring the conversation into full context, that I provided). I could also never understand how all of the witnesses were allowed to continue to converse, even during the court proceedings. They all sat together, shared testimony, etc. I wasn’t allowed to have contact with any of them, but I didn’t understand how they were allowed to exchange what they said before the other testified. How is that right? Many of the witnesses changed their original story from the time they were interviewed by police, to the preliminary hearing and then eventually the main court hearing. We had text messages, and information that we weren’t allowed to present because it was considered hearsay. The reason it was hearsay was because they weren’t there to put into context what was said, yet the people who received the message were there and knew what the conversation was about. We had written documents stating by 3 offices that they didn’t know who was driving and yet the people who wrote the reports weren’t questioned as to why they testified differently. There were so many things that weren’t brought up or included that I could make this post longer than it should be. The point was, I did feel that my lawyer wasn’t as aggressive as he could have been. To his defense, I believe he was afraid to push too much because of coming across as bullying the victims. I can agree with that to a point; however, you have a person’s freedom on the line. Lawyers make mistakes and they are only human as the rest of us are. We can all look back and say we could have done this or that. I can even look back and say, “had I never allowed this or that, this would never have occurred to begin with”. They say that hindsight is 20/20. As much as all of this really sucked, and as much as I wish I could turn back time and change everything, I can’t. The Bible has a lot to say about perseverance under trial:
John 1:12: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Romans 5:3-5: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
James 1:2-4: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Revelation 2:10: Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
So, as you can see it was extremely important to me as a Christian to press on no matter what happened. I knew that in all of this that my Lord and Savior was with me. God had a plan! He continues to have a plan on my life. During my prayer times, I told him that I would use this for his good because he was good to me through all of it. I don’t know if I am helping someone else avoid the mistakes that I did, if I’m helping someone dealing with the same thing I went through, I don’t know if you need to become more mature in your faith. God knows what each of us need and sees to it that he nourishes us daily in some way. We often think that things are coincidence, but I believe there is no coincidence. God intervenes and puts people, places and things in our lives when we need them. Pay attention to these little ques each day and make sure that in all things tell him thank you for your current blessings and your blessings you haven’t received yet.
Covid, the election and the news
As difficult as it was for everyone to get adjusted to a new way of life during a pandemic, it wasn’t any easier for those already locked up. We had access to the news and any newspaper that someone may have had a subscription to. Most of the news however came from phone calls, emails and letters from family, friends and also the staff. The only 24/7 type news we had was CNN. The rest came during the segmented times the news would come on regularly. There were times when the DOC would decide to block channels so we couldn’t watch certain things. There was a lot going on it seemed like all at once. We had the news of covid coming in, then we had the election and post-election madness. We also had the insurrection of the capitol building, and then there was the killing of George Floyd and Ahmad Arbury. We saw the trials of the police officer who killed George Floyd, the trial of the father/son who killed Ahmad. The trial of the officer who shot a man instead of using her taser. During the George Floyd incident they blocked the channel for a while not allowing us access to that news. They then, said we weren’t allowed to draw on or decorate our masks. Anyone who amended their face mask would be subject to disciplinary action. Our guess is that people were writing, “I can’t breathe” on them. it was kind of unfortunate because there were a lot of really pretty masks that people created. I could also see the reason behind the new rule, as there could have been some problems stemming from someone being offended. Things remained quiet for the most part during these times. If anyone had an opinion about the events, they were shared respectfully and without incident. The only major incident that actually occurred was from a staff member being suspended after kneeling and making reference to the Floyd situation. He was suspended for quite a while without pay we presumed and then brought back without incident. He was actually a decent officer, and just made a bad choice in poor taste. It seemed to me that most of the inmates respected him and vice versa. As the trials simmered down and the vaccines came out, things started to approach a new normal. We saw several officers being sent to prison for a long time and being held accountable. The election steal rhetoric was over, and now we were being told it was imperative we get vaccinated. As a Christian, all of the things going on just resonated with me as part of the end of times. Everyone was coming to me and other fellow believers asking if the vaccine was the mark of the beast. Constantly, we were pointing to the verses in the Bible that said that the vaccine was not the mark of the beast. We were told that whether you got the vaccine was up to you and that there wouldn’t be any repercussions if you chose not to take it. After being at the DOC for the time that I had been up to this point I knew that probably wasn’t true! There are times when they treated us like kids, only telling us what we wanted to hear at the time to avoid hearing any whining about it. They enticed everyone to get the vaccine by paying us $25 and giving us a goody bag. I decided to get the shot because we were still holding out hope that Phoenix would reopen. Those of us waiting for that to occur figured they’d say that you would have to be vaccinated in order to go. (Again, they never reopened the FTU yet the website says it’s open). After they held the vaccine clinic and evaluated how to move forward, they decided that anyone who didn’t receive the vaccine now had to move behind a door into a cell. You wouldn’t be allowed any contact visits, and you weren’t allowed to interact with other inmates. The staff gave you a final chance to obtain the vaccine, of which some decided to do so rather than move. Others, because of religious, health or personal reasons still didn’t get it. Once everyone was vaccinated, they slowly started to bring back programs, classes, activities and contact visits. They set up a system where you had to go in and make a reservation to be able to visit. They didn’t want people just showing up like it was pre-covid. My sister Pam and her husband were the first to make plans to come visit. They had confirmations in hand that they made the reservation. They drove 6 hours one way to see me. I was so excited! I was sitting in the visiting room and in walks my brother-in-law and not my sister. I love my brother-in-law and he’s a great guy, I was confused however why my sister wasn’t with him. Here, they would not let her in. She had proof she did what was required but the computer glitched and she wasn’t showing up on their list. They didn’t care how long they drove, that they were leaving to move out of state and couldn’t return. They made no allowances for a computer glitch because nothing was ever thought through. Anything the DOC does is based on reaction and not a plan. When the pandemic broke out, they acted like they didn’t know what to do. While this was new for everyone, it seemed to me that an institution that housed 1000’s of people would have had a disaster plan that included an outbreak. (Lice, TB, Scabies, the flu). It just confused me how they seemed so unprepared. They made stupid rules that made no sense to us. When we were able to go to activities, the library and commissary they had a 6′ social distancing rule. It was being imposed upon all of you on the outside, so it seemed to them to be a good idea for them to do on the inside. The funny thing was they had us moving by cohorts. This meant that we were only allowed to go places that with people that lived on the same unit with us. So, I could be standing in line at commissary with 2 of my roommates in front of and behind me. The staff would then yell at us that we weren’t socially distancing. Umm, excuse me but I live with these two and we’re barely inches apart sometimes in our room. Same thing if they weren’t our roommate. I could be on the kiosk next to someone I didn’t room with. The thing that made it so dumb was then they’d call us for chow. We would end up standing in line at the chow hall, with people in front of me I’d never seen before. from another unit. Yet we were to be separate by cohort to prevent an outbreak. So, it’s ok to be elbow to elbow with people I don’t live with, but you yell if I’m 2 feet from my roommate. These situations frustrated all of us and we would normally try to point out how it made no sense. Someone wasn’t using their head. When the booster shots came out, things really started to loosen up and soon they didn’t even care if the non-vaccinated folks were mixed in with us or not. Honestly, some of the decisions seemed to follow whatever you all were being told out here. This didn’t always apply to how things ran efficiently in prison, however. I know I keep harping on the Phoenix situation, but another unit is what the female’s need. (Actually, we need less incarceration). The over-crowding causes huge problems during these situations. When you try to move people around in a crowded space, it’s like re-arranging chairs in a closet. No one, at any given time should be made to live elbow to elbow. You’re only asking for it to become a breeding ground of disease and infestation. During this time the Governor enacted a temporary release plan that if you fit into a certain category, you were eligible for release due to the pandemic. The parameters were so small that barely anyone was released as a result of it. It was made to sound good, that’s about it. We’re approaching election time again. Our Lt. Governor is running for state senate along with Dr. Oz. (Yes, thee Dr. Oz). As part of the smear campaigns, Dr. Oz is using fear mongering to scare people away from voting for Mr. Fetterman. Mr. Fetterman is on the board of pardons and has been an advocate for second chances and inmates. I don’t find this to be a bad thing, when used properly. Every situation should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. I can tell you, after meeting some of the Lifer’s (they prefer to be called long-timers), there are some that I feel deserve to have their case reviewed again. Some of the law makers feel they are doing their constituents a favor by just voting “no”. I would like to think that everyone deserves to be heard, and at least given the chance to have their case re-evaluated. As time goes on, laws change and people who were charged today for similar acts aren’t being sentenced as harsh as a life sentence. They instead might be sentenced to 2nd-3rd degree murder or something else depending on their role. One major example that I saw often, was women that were abuse victims. They one day fought back, and things didn’t end up so good. Did they kill someone? Yes. There are resources today that weren’t available years ago. These are the types of cases now being reviewed again, to give people a possible second chance. So, I wouldn’t necessarily call someone like this a “violent murderer or violent criminal”. Yet, this is what the news/media will tell you. You won’t hear how they were tortured relentlessly. I saw a few ladies file for commutation while I was there. It’s a long and arduous process. Many of them have the total support of the DOC behind them. Staff that has watched them grow up and grow old. Who see them every day be nothing but kind and caring to others. I’ve also seen people who were meaner than a hornet and were set to come home. Not everyone in prison is violent or a terrible person. There are some good people who made bad choices. Some who were with the wrong people at the wrong time. I pray that the Lord will put it on the hearts and minds of the decision makers to bring positive change.
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So are the days of our lives
Again, like I mentioned before my life goes on outside now as I try to tell my story on the inside too. Recently, I had my 3rd retinal detachment in my right eye. Ten or so years ago, I was at work and saw flashes. I thought the fluorescent lights at our office was just playing tricks on my eyes. I like to watch medical shows and read a lot. I knew that seeing flashes could be bad, but I was concerned about a stroke or something else. I was shocked to learn that my vitreous was detaching and pulling the retina with it. A few years later it happened again in the left eye. Now, I was no sooner back from being paroled when it happened a 3rd time, 2nd time in my right eye. I can only see because I’ve made my backgrounds dark, and my font is huge. I’ll have my second surgery soon to complete the process of fixing it. This is all going on while we are trying to sell our home so that we can all be together again as a family (that story later). I hate moving! After also having to move so much while incarcerated, I really hate it. A lot of things have changed since I’ve been home. My one sister, her husband and my parents all moved out of state. I still have 2 sisters here, along with my chosen sister Lynn and my bff’s. This has made me decide that staying where I’m currently living is best choice. I essentially have returned to where my family actually is from. Well, my mom’s family. I was extremely lucky to know my maternal grandmother’s parents, and my maternal grandfather’s mother. There aren’t many people who can say they’ve met their Great Grandparents I don’t think. We have very deep roots in the area where I’m living now. My family settled here in the late 1600’s, and was given one of the first land deeds from William Penn. They were part of a group of settlers that he asked to come here to settle in Pennsylvania, in the Lancaster/York County areas. My family has fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as well as many wars since. So, when I couldn’t return to York County, I was deeply hurt. God opens doors, when one closes. Therefore, I’m feeling pulled to return to where my “family” is from. I mentioned before that having a great roommate is half the battle while in prison. Having a great parole officer on the outside is just as important., if not more so! I like my parole officer. We don’t talk much, unless I need him or he’s coming to check on me. I’m considered a low risk, low priority. he knows I don’t bother anyone. I have better things to do with my time. He’s also familiar with my case, which I feel helps when someone understands what happened from beginning to end. I’m not left explaining or feeling like I’m under a microscope. I have an opportunity to choose where we want to move to now, but again I feel I want to remain where I am. If I move, I’ll have to obtain a different officer. I don’t know that I want to do that. I pray every day that the Lord shows me where he wants me to be. He has watched over me and led me to where he needs me. I will continue to trust in him for my path going forward. Stay tuned!
When things go to hell in a handbasket
By March of 2019, I had settled into my new dorm and with my new roommates on “C” unit. The only access we had to the news was through whatever news channels we could get on our TV’s. We started hearing about COVID-19 and how it was spreading fast across the globe. Never did I ever imagine that it would become a pandemic and shut the entire world down. As someone who was never incarcerated before, the new rules that were imposed upon us seemed ok with me. It meant that actually, I felt that life for me was a little easier. We were told that we weren’t allowed out of our rooms, unless it was to go to the bathroom, to use the phone or kiosks for our tablets. Our meals where now being brought to us (no more having to walk in the rain), and we could doctor up our food with items we bought off commissary. Our meds were delivered to us, and they started to give us incentives. Normally cable is $17/month, but because of Covid I only had to pay for it maybe a total of 6 months out of the 3 years I was there. They started giving us coloring books, puzzle books and colored pencils. There was even a time or two that we received incentive meals. They ended up making every single inmate a mask that was made out of white uniforms that the kitchen workers used to wear. We each received 2 of them. Everyone started decorating them, well that didn’t last long. After the incident involving George Floyd and some of the other BLM incidents, they made a rule that no one was allowed to decorate their masks. They were afraid of some problems cropping up on the inside that was happening on the outside. Luckily that never happened. Most of us spent the entire time keeping up with the election drama between Trump and Biden, the arrests, convictions and sentencing of the officer’s involved in Floyd’s case as well as the 2 men that shot Ahmaud Arbery. If we weren’t watching this, then it was sad just watching the numbers climb day after day of covid cases and deaths. It was tough being on the inside and feeling helpless that you couldn’t be home with your loved ones during such a scary time. The ironic thing is, we were probably safer in there from the virus than those on the outside. We were only going to catch it if an employee brought it in. We lived like this for about 72 days! By about July 2019 things settled down enough that the DOC decided to do a mass move within the institution. They someone thought that moving everyone around and creating cohorts that they could get things back to “normal”. The idea was that if you worked in the kitchen, all they kitchen workers lived together and so on. Before, it didn’t matter where you lived. You just went to work when you needed to. The inmates run the prison with the supervision of the guards. So, when were locked down, the staff had to then do these jobs. They weren’t too happy, so getting everyone back to work as quickly as possible was priority. I was accidently then moved to the 2nd floor and guess what? A top bunk! Well, they fixed that immediately, but I couldn’t stay on the unit where I was. They ended up moving me temporarily. I lived on another smaller unit for about a month, along with a parole violator program that they were starting. That was sort of odd for me because it almost reminded me of being back in the county jail. When you are in prison doing a longer sentence, there’s a different vibe than when you are in a county setting where you might only have a short stint. The parole violators were essentially there for a short stint until they saw the board and received their board action for violating. It was like the Lord was trying to give me a glimpse back to remind me of what I’d come from to where I was. (Like when the Israelites’ kept complaining about leaving Egypt and saying they were better off back there.) In August then, I was approached by the Unit Manager. She informed me that she was given my name by the Central Office in Harrisburg about being an honor inmate. There was a small group of us that apparently made this list out of 3,000 female inmates. She proceeded to tell us that a new high honor inmate program was starting at SCI Phoenix outside of Philadelphia. I had one day to decide if I wanted to go or not. It was called the Female Transitional Housing Unit. We would all have to agree to be transferred there, which was about a 6-hour ride, shackled in the van. The perks were that, because it was a high honor unit, it wasn’t technically considered prison anymore. It was transitional housing. I didn’t hesitate. I said yes, especially knowing my family was going to be less than 2 hours away instead of 6. We were supposed to then have unlimited visits, we could talk on the phone anytime we wanted except during count and during the night. We had brand new bedding, brand new uniforms, game systems, dvrs, and furniture. The food was amazing. I was supposed to leave the end of September, but it was delayed because they had to reclassify everyone going. It was a classification that showed that we could work and live outside the gates. That we were trusted. I ended up in September, instead being transferred to the unit behind a door that I mentioned in a prior post. I lived there until the middle of November. They realized that I was living with the parole violators and shouldn’t have been, so I had to move. This made no sense since I was on the list to be transferred out of the facility. The DOC does everything backwards. If it makes sense, they don’t do it. lol! I lived with the room there that asked me if I was afraid to die. I didn’t mind living behind a door. Especially when you have a decent roommate. She worked all day so I was there pretty much all day by myself. That gave me again time to reflect, journal, read my Bible and watch tv. Then finally around mid-November they told us we were leaving. They gave us all covid tests, packed us out and away we went. it felt really good to think that I would never see Cambridge Springs again, that I was on the “last leg” of my journey to eventually going home. Or was i?
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Don’t make my sister come!
So, we arrived at Cambridge Springs on December 24, 2019. I mentioned before that after all the processing that we had to go through, I finally was assigned a dorm and bed by 9:30 pm. (remember the day started at 4:00 am). I have problems with my hip/knees and have asthma. They decided that putting me on the 3rd floor in a top bunk was a great idea! The stairs to this dorm are better known as “stairmaghedon”. They are steep and there is about 9 steps per flight with a landing between them. Even the most athletic person was huffing and puffing after climbing these bad boys. I was also supposed to be “bottom bunk restricted”. The bed they assigned to me was top bunk. I wasn’t amused. There also wasn’t much that was going to be resolved at 9:30 pm on Christmas Eve. That was only the beginning, however. No one, should have to move on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, etc. I’m sure like most of us that were transferred that day, we were hoping to have a visit from family or make some phone calls home. When you’re transferred, your phone/accounts are shut off temporarily. My anxiety was still reeling from the night before, I had new anxiety of now being placed in general population, in a facility I was unfamiliar with. I was also placed with no one that I knew. The people that I did know that were transferred with me, didn’t stay long as they were moved to their program housing within that week. I felt very alone, in a strange place, and it was the holidays. On top of this, I should never have been placed on a 3rd floor in a top bunk. (Medical claimed that my orders expired, I guess they expired when I drove from point A to point B). That evening when I went to take my anxiety meds, I was told that they didn’t have them. This continued for several days, including me asking over and over again. (I found out later in a separate transfer that meds like this get flagged, and that they could’ve put a bridge prescription on it until I met with the psych Dr. to have them issued out of this facility). Honestly, they don’t care enough. Through time, you learn these things and are able to pass on that knowledge to others, so they don’t have to go through it like you did. To this day, I will be forever grateful fpr a CPS worker named Rachel. A CPS worker is another inmate who is able to take training, who also has mental health issues and is able to advocate for you and talk to you when needed. Rachel was able to go to her boss and have things set in motion for me to get my meds restarted. (I later thanked her and told her how much this meant me). This was a huge task since no medical staff was supposed to be back until after Christmas. It was like things stood still until almost the 1st of the year. Another reason, NO ONE should be transferred during a holiday like this. Every day I was calling home and in tears. I don’t mean just sad, I miss home tears, these were sobbing tears. Finally, the one day my little sis told my mom, “My sister doesn’t cry like this, I’m going up there to find out what’s going on”. She wasn’t going to rest until she put eyes on me. Her and her husband were the 1st visitors I had at SCI Muncy and the 1st at SCI Cambridge Springs. This meant the world to me because this wasn’t an easy drive for them. It’s about a 6-hour drive from their house then to the prison, one way. It was just nice to see a loved one, hug them and just feel that sense of familiarity. I did finally get my bottom bunk order fixed and swapped places with my Bunkie. Eventually, I was then moved to an entire other unit, called “C” unit where I would spend 95% of the rest of my time while incarcerated. I liked this unit for many reasons. All of the units were open units, meaning none of us were behind a door or in a cell. Well, there was one unit that did have this, but I was fortunate enough to only live there about a month. I’ll share that story later. This facility used to be a college campus. All the buildings and rooms were old and, the resembled college type dorm rooms. They were set up with 1 set of bunks on each wall (4 people total per room), with 2 desks, shelves, open closets and picture windows like you’d see anywhere else. We had the windows that could be opened for fresh air, but grates on the outside so no one could jump should that urge arise. When I lived on the 1st floor, which was about a year, it only housed about 25 people total. This helped my anxiety tremendously. There was a short period of time when I finally became acclimated that I was able to go to indoor rec. This was nice, because we could go up to the chow hall on certain days and meet up with friends from other units to play games or just socialize. I remember walking around the campus and seeing everyone in shirts with DOC on the back. It struck me immediately when I saw this when the Lord revealed to me that it didn’t stand for “Department of Corrections”. He told me it stood for, “Daughters of Christ”. From that day forward, I never looked at those shirts the same way. We all definitely were his daughters. By, February I was finally getting the hang of things at my new location. I received a wonderful visit from my husband, boys and my friend Andrea. Originally, I thought I wouldn’t hardly see anyone and here I was having a visit once a month. It wasn’t they every other week like in Muncy, but it was better than expected. I had pending visits coming up in March where my older sister/brother-in-law were coming and another visit from my best friend and her husband. Things were moving along, and then everything came to a screeching halt!
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