Adjusting to coming out of prison into a Covid 19 world

 I have been blessed with my freedom after 19 years of incarceration. I have been in Crossroads since October 2019, (the best decision I made after my release).

In my transition as a free woman, I am thriving with the surmounting support of my mentors, family and wonderful staff. I get to work, which is a huge blessing. I worked for Foothill Transit, which is public transportation. I cleaned the buses and was considered an essential worker.

Then on March 07, 2020 things changed. COVID19 became a true concern to our community. You could feel the fear and confusion encompassing us all. Yet as a family here at Crossroads we have endured the changes to our day to day living. I continued working for about another month for the transit company, being cautious in everything I did. Being mindful of the safety of my Crossroads family and myself.

I am about to complete the program and go live with my birth family. I worry how COVID 19 has affected them too. In my new endeavor I worry how things will affect me, I am stepping into an ever changing world amidst a crisis. I worry about finding employment and my families well being. Yet I know in my heart that this horrible crisis will pass.

Through this madness and confusion, I am amazed at the determination, love and creativity that radiates from family and community to stay connected by today’s technology. We have been using Zoom to continue our weekly meetings at the Reintegration Academy at Pitzer College.  This is amazing to me, how strong their dedication in helping us succeed will go. The love and support that I have received from this community, is heart warming. I feel truly blessed. I thank God for this every day.

—Kiera

“I was overjoyed to have this sort of humanity from people I had just met. It was humbling to learn that the majority of these gifts are donations from the people of the community. I am overwhelmed with emotion from all the community involvement. I never knew people cared so much for their fellow human beings. I can say today that I look at the world in a different way and even in this crisis we can still be supportive to each other. “

While in prison I felt safe because we were away from the world. On Mar 30, 2020 I was released from prison into a pandemic. My first thought was panic. Would I be safe in this new world I was stepping into, or would I need to stay in prison to remain safe?

I was released to Crossroads and to my amazement Crossroads was not only a safe place for me, but the staff and other residents assured me I would be okay. As I watched, the world seemed to be panicking, not being allowed to go about their daily duties such as doing the things that brought them joy in an imperfect world.

For myself I have found my joy right here at the program. My thoughts were that I had not missed out on all the things most people had felt they lost. I did not have those luxuries. It’s the small things here that make it feel like home. We eat dinner together every night, watch movies, and learn from the Reintegration Academy at Pitzer College online. We practice good communication skills with each other that we might have lost along the way. In addition, I was given nice clothes, shoes, hygiene and other necessities that I needed. All of these were put towards this new life of mine.

I was overjoyed to have this sort of humanity from people I had just met. It was humbling to learn that the majority of these gifts are donations from the people of the community. I am overwhelmed with emotion from all the community involvement. I never knew people cared so much for their fellow human beings. I can say today that I look at the world in a different way and even in this crisis we can still be supportive to each other.

—Fonisha

I was recently released from prison after 21 years into a worldwide pandemic. COVID 19.  I found my way into the residential housing of Sister Terry at Crossroads.  Here I was greeted with “Welcome Home”.

The emotions that went through me were laced with anxiety, disbelief, and yes…even hope … along with a healthy dose of fear for COVID and a fear of the unknown.

I had no concept of what I would be walking into at Crossroads. Freedom was going to be like nothing I had ever experienced during this worldwide crisis. The staff and women here are supportive. They are sincere, understanding, and willing to do what is necessary to aid us in our reintegration.  I am grateful that I have this chance to be a productive member in society and reunify with family.

Crossroads helps to further develop the tools needed to make it today and to accomplish the goals I have set for my future. I am thankful to love and live life free.

—Durlene

Letters & Insights | Maria

Mi experiencia hoy dia es saber como aprender a caminar de Nuevo en esta nueva oportunidad,que Dios me dio. Por la gracia de El estoy libre y me siento bien agradecida de empezar una nueva vida, despues de 24 anos de encarcelamiento. Siento que puedo respirar con mucha paz, mi libertad me hace sonreir amablemente con las personas. Me siento con una gran motivacion dentro de mi, me siento contenta. Ahora me encuentro en Crossroads estando aqui me siento segura y motivada, no estoy sola. La Hermana Terry es una de las personas principal de este programa y se asegura de prepararnos, junto con su equipo de consejeros trabajan conmigo y se aseguran de todas mis necesidadespara reintegrarme a la sociedad y ser parte de mi comunidad y reunificarmecon mi familia. Gracias a Dios que cuento con estas personas tan maravillosas, que siempre estan dispuestas a ayudarme. Son una bendicion. Al igual tomando en cuenta esta crisis que estamos sobre llevando COVID19 ellas se preocupan en protegernos. Meda mucha triztesa al ver cuanta gente esta perdiendo su vida a causa de este virus, pero aun me siento segura estando aqui y disfruto mi libertad. Solo le pido a Dios nos siga protegiendo de todo lo malo en esta vida.

 

(My experience today is knowing how to learn to walk again in this new opportunity that God gave me. By the grace of Him I am free and I am very grateful to start a new life after 24 years of incarceration. I feel that I can breathe very peacefully. My freedom makes me smile kindly with people. I feel very motivated within myself and I feel happy. Being in Crossroads I feel safe and motivated, I am not alone. Sister Terry is one of the main people in this program and she makes sure to prepare us, along with her team of counselors, they work with me and make sure of all my needs to reintegrate into society and be part of my community and reunify with my family. Thank God that I have these wonderful people who are always ready to help me. They are a blessing. Likewise, taking into account this crisis COVID19, they are concerned about protecting us. I am very sad to see how many people are losing their lives because of this virus, but I still feel safe being here and I enjoy my freedom. I only ask God to continue protecting us from everything bad in this life.)

—Maria

Letters & Insights | Gloria

I was recently released from prison after serving 27 years on a life sentence. Sister Terry has been writing me letters of support for the past 15 years for my parole board.  She has not given up on me, which in turn made me not want to give up on myself.  I have the hope and desire to succeed and adjust to be a productive member of society.

 Crossroads offers therapy, job skills, anger management, self- esteem groups, domestic violence, grief processing, substance abuse and education to better my life, not only a job, but a career to thrive in life. Crossroads is a Residential Program; there are 5 lifers who also need help transitioning into the world, that I live with.

I was released almost 6 weeks ago. I spent 2 weeks with my family. On March 7, 2020 the world was in a state of emergency crisis with COVID-19, and everything changed for me. I feel the sadness, the pain and feel so much compassion for the world. It is surreal to me, I cannot have visits with my family, work is at a halt, however, I have the support I need with my new family here at Crossroads. Crossroads makes sure I am safe; that I have contact with my family, and still continue to have college courses on-line and groups.

I am thankful that I am here, I am not alone and each and every woman here is dealing with the same situation after doing such a tremendous amount of time. We are learning coping skills, communication skills and Crossroads makes sure that I am still receiving the help that I need. Crossroads makes sure I am safe and first and foremost still working a program to better my life and learn how to transition into the free world.

It is very emotional trying to adjust and then now we have to be quarantined for our safety and others in Crossroads, including staff, they are like a family to me too. With the help of Crossroads I am not going through this alone.

—Gloria

Letters & Insights | Linda

People complain at times that we are on a “lockdown”.  In my experience, this is not a “lockdown” at all!  It merely changes the way I look at things.

I am 66 years old and was released prison in November of 2019 after serving 25 years in Central California Women’s from Facility.  I am an only child, with no children of my own. For most of my life I never learned how to be responsible for anything or anyone, not even myself. Most things were given to me or done for me. Needless to say, I did not know how to live my life on life’s terms. I know without a doubt that I was blessed when I was accepted into the Crossroads program. 

I knew I had to change my ways, my thoughts, behaviors and mostly my attitude. There were major changes to make if I was to make it in this world. See, my entire life, I depended on my mother, and she always came to my rescue. It was the only way she knew how to love me, I know that now. This was most embarrassing. That was, until I met other women in my same predicament that welcomed me and were willing to help. I have learned how to make decisions without the use of alcohol and drugs. Crossroads has helped me get the necessary documents I needed to apply for a part time job at God’s Pantry. 

I was able to work for two weeks before we were asked to self-quarantine. At first they asked for only 14 days, but now those 14 days have come and gone. Now the whole world is on self-quarantined, and mandatory covering on our faces when in public.

People complain at times that we are on a “lockdown”.  In my experience, this is not a “lockdown” at all!  It merely changes the way I look at things. My journey has not been stopped; it’s just taken a turn in another direction. Everyone believes in “something” or “someone” and in my life I choose to believe in God.

During my time of being quarantined I feel extremely grateful to be a part of the Crossroads family. I feel safe, cared for and loved. This Covid 19 has taught me many things, but mostly I’m realizing what’s really important in my life.

A month before I was to be released from prison my mother passed away. She was everything to me as well as my only family.  I never thought I could survive without her. Crossroads has helped me become an independent woman with life skills and how to think for myself. Now I am a woman with goals for the future, and I no longer have to live in the past.

This Covid 19 is a horrible thing and I pray that it will be over soon.  In the meantime, I will be reflecting on what is really important: Living each and every day to the fullest, being mindful of how precious today is, for tomorrow is not promised.  I thank God every day for bringing me to Crossroads and for the love they have shown me, as well as taught how to love myself.

—Linda

Letters & Insights | April 2020