Sister That Been There opened the doors to their safe space for individuals reentering into the community after being released from Humboldt County’s Department of corrections, on September 19th Sister That Been There held the first workshop with an attendance of two. The workshop provides a supportive approach, and navigates the needs of individuals on a journey to rehabilitation in the humboldt county area. STBT holds the weekly group at the Salvation Army located at 2123 tydd street in eureka ca and meets on Tuesday each week at 5pm to educate support individuals through the difficulties that can arise on their journey through reentry.
SO Humboldt county has Sister That Been There but no services no support and no guidance. I’ve returned to this county where my journey began and have found it necessary to find the founds and feed the lives of this community that find themselves running into the brick walls that are built in the center of this small Fisher mans/loggers community.
The end of a run in these streets are the same here in Humboldt as many big city’s its a old fashion style know to the convict as cold concrete and and cold cuffs binding not only the physical body but the spiritual body. So wheres the founds? Lets help them break this cycle and rehabilitate, because like many county’s in the state of California this problem is not subsiding but improvement is taking place in the new reentry program flourishing in many county’s such as Santa Clara L.a. county and many more.
Humboldt County was awarded $20 million in state funding 2015 for the purpose of creating a Humboldt Community Corrections Reentry Resource Center on the east side of the jail. The center proposes to add 44 more beds and would provide educational and treatment programs for inmates and probationers to help transition them back into society. My concern at this time is why this is not a regular topic on the Board of supervisors weekly agenda. you would think this would be a hot topic in Humboldt after being denied the first grant proposal.
All it takes is one concerned community member to start a movement I hope my voice is the movement that gets this project move to next months agenda. Id love to know the plans that are being implemented to help the rehabilitating individuals in Humboldt County and how Sisters That Been There can be apart of Humboldt County realignment-reentry movement .
Stay tuned Sisters That Been There is Here In Humboldt County!
I met My hero last year. Piper Kerman a role model designed just for me, or at least that’s what I believe. When I watched “Orange is The New Black” i was so interested I meeting the the real “Piper” and felt like we would at so e poi t need to work together. A women that is doing similar work as I am just made me excited its rare to find Some one who has a desire change the system one day at a time. Telling our community’s the truth about incarceration and women who travel through this system and face freedom with no life skills.
Well my dreams continue to come true and I keep connecting with incredible individuals doing incredible work. This coming March I will get the privilege to speak on a panel in New York a event hosted by Piper Kerman check out this link
My life has been pretty much a roller coaster ride,the ups and downs unexpected turns and terrifying drops. I’ve shed many tears and a whole lot of smiles long store short I’ve been to hell and back.
Completing the sisters that been there program has taken my life and swerved it into the right direction I’m moving onto better things for my self and for my family.
I hesitated when friends told me to watch Orange is the New Black. Being that that I’ve spent the last 17 years of my life behind the walls, I figured unless it was different than all the other prison shows that never got it right, I could wait. It wasn’t until a good friend told me, “Yo like foreal, you need to watch this, it hella reminds me of you,” that I actually sat down and watched it.
I automatically understood the show from the women I saw in the introduction. I saw the faces of all the different types of women that go in and out — some have piercings, some have scars from the street life or drug abuse, some are clear eyed and clear faced, some are dirty, some skinny, some bigger. I could immediately relate to the main character, Piper (who is based on Piper Kerman who wrote a book about her incarceration), while thinking of all my trips to the big house — having to turn yourself in and the thoughts about the choices, the wanting to change the past and turn the clock back.
I was completely hooked on the show when I saw Piper sitting on her toilet and sobbing the night before she had to turn herself in. I felt like God was telling my secrets as I sat there with tears running down my face, remembering that feeling and reliving a similar moment.
It is really those subtle scenes that tell the normally unshared truth of being incarcerated. Like when Piper shares how the shower is her happy place, a place to be honest. The shower in prison was the only time I felt free, not only that it’s the only place one can really have a good cry, but because I will always remember how when I first got to prison I sobbed in silence under the running water. The shower became my safe place, and is still to this day — that place I go to when I need to wash away the pains of life.
Those were like the first 15 minutes of the show. I could go on and on about the impact Piper’s truth is going to have on women who haven’t even gotten out yet. It’s like a secret society, and as the show points out, some don’t even make it to the outside, or start taking meds and don’t come out the same way they went in.
All these stories are real, and Piper is my hero for being brave enough for advocating for those women telling their stories. That’s exactly what I get to do now as a career, my purpose in life, through a program I dreamed up while inside and made real when I got out called Sister’s That Been There – a support group for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. I am so proud of Piper to be the one to come out and gives life to these women’s stories, some who will never get out to get there credibility back.
And even the scenes that seem improbable, really do happen in prison. The first that comes to mind is a scam the women play during a scared straight session. Piper says to the young woman, Dina, “I was someone before I came in here. I was somebody with a life that I chose for my self. And now its just about getting through the day with out crying, and I’m scared, I’m still scared, I’m scared that I’m not myself in here, and I’m scared that I am.”
I can remember that exact moment in my own journey. Now that I’m free, I often ask myself: how did I even make it out in my right mind? Prison life is not a joke, it’s a spirituals war zone between self and the walls that close you in, cutting you off from the world on the other side.
I really liked how they shed light on the recidivism with the character Tasty. The one conversation that still occurs between women who were locked up together no matter how much time passes is, “who is locked up?” And the phrase, “guess who’s back” is always a start of that conversation. It’s never really a shock, but sometimes, most times, it hurts to hear those names. We all hope the best for the individual that gets released, but when they come back in we have a wide range of emotions – disappointment for sure, and then we rejoice because at least we have each other. It’s crazy but true, we are a family, and when one of us succeeds we all succeed. And when one of us fails, we all fail. That level of support is how I’ve made it to where I am at now.
This show is valuable because it tells our truth about the relationships we have with one another. It is exactly why I am driven to keep those same connections we had on the inside here on the outs. Women come together on the inside and support one another, but then they get out and loose those connections and fail in rehabilitation.
That’s why I was so bothered by some of the backlash on Orange is the New Black, particularly from people who have never been behind the walls. In The Nation Magazine, an article called “White is the New White,” knocked the show, but the author Aura Bogado makes no mention she herself has ever experienced prison. As such, maybe she couldn’t handle the episodes, and at one point even says that the women depicted in the show wouldn’t appreciate the stories being told. I didn’t get the point of the article. It seemed contradictory because the writer is talking about racism and money and yet she has chosen to talk about something she has no experience in. I don’t know, but women who are behind bars love the success of their fellow inmates. I’m proof.
Reading Bogado’s critique, I felt a need to protect our truth from people who might not understand us. It’s nothing new that we aren’t understood, it’s why we go where we go. So to make it clear, back up off Orange is the New Black — we don’t need you to understand us, the way we think, and the life we’ve lived. Life behind the walls is its own world, and Piper has nailed it, she fuckin’ nailed it.
That’s why Piper is a hero to sisters that been there, so the public should just enjoy her bravery to open up. A lot of us don’t do stuff like this because we carry a lot of fear when it comes to society. That adds extra pressure to those of us who do speak out. For the women inside, when people have not yet found their voice, I become that voice. In fact, Orange is the New Black will be a great teaching tool for the women in my program.
This is written for all my girls behind the walls. They would have written this if they had access to internet, but because I know that I’m free, I live for those that live for me, because through me they too are free.
Walk a mile in our shoes I guarantee you’ll feel the blues and get a gimps of the battle your bound to loose
walk a mile in our shoes and time will drag people on the outs are destined to lag
walk a mile in our shoes feel the importance of mail feel the way it warm’s up even the coldest cell
walk a mile in our shoes you will see the unseen you will find your self walking in the land of lost dreams
walk a miles in our shoes and you will come to a stop you find a sisterhood that will take you to the top
walk a mile in our shoe and your destined to win your destined to have the chance to never go back in
walk a mile in our shoes you wouldn’t change a thing take the shoes your wearing and then start comparing
similarity of the women that walked in those shoes are indeed the same women that felt that same exact blues
walk a mile in our shoes you’ll see the time that dragged is the same time we all had and those people that lagged
were the only people any of us had and the importance of mail is why we can’t fail the warmth of that cell is what keeps us from jail
the unseen remains the same no need to take on all that shame
that land of lost dreams no longer serves the rehabilitating team
we are on our way to the top because we hold the keys to our own locks
destined to win as long as we don’t run in old circles again
walk a mile in our shoe — sisters that been there.
By Steeda McGruder