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

Stinging for Their Suppers: How Women in Prison Nourish Their Bodies & Souls

Stinging For Their Suppers is a collection of stories and recipes by women who have lived in California prisons. While living at Crossroads, a transitional facility, these women wrote about cooking in their cells using an immersion heater, also known as a “stinger.” These stories demonstrate the women’s creativity, ingenuity, and resilience as they find ways to cook for each other, and in the process, create a feeling of home that they can share with other women.

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The History of the Stinger

by Maureen

When I first came to prison in 1984, there wasn’t really any way to cook food. We had 20 gallon tanks under sinks to heat hot water. Once the 20 gallons had been used, you had to wait until the water heated up again. Just to get a cup of coffee or have a glass of hot chocolate took a long me. You would go out into the hallway to the TV room, and the sink would already have 6 or 7 Tupperware glasses lined up on the counter. This was a long drawn out process. On a unit of 120 women, you could end up waiting 30 minutes or more for your morning cup of coffee. This is part of the reason that the illegal stingers came into existence. At least with a stinger, you could heat up your water in your cell. The only problem was finding an available appliance that you could cut the cord off of to make your stinger. Blow dryers, fans – any appliance that wasn’t nailed down would lose a cord. None were safe. And the silverware was always disappearing from the kitchen. Spoons were the most popular, but forks were also used. In the mid-90s, the institution finally invested in putting stingers in the Canteen Store and allowing them in the institution. Most of us thought the reason was that they had to replace silverware too often in V.C. (Village Cafeteria), but I’m sure they got tired of people blowing out the sockets. You see, a handmade stinger that wasn’t well-constructed could blow out the power in every room, sometimes blowing up other TVs, which the institution would have to replace if owner processed a 602 (appeal complaint) and won.

“O.G.” (Original) Stingers

by Sharelle

The original stingers were made from two stolen pieces of silverware from the chow hall, aka Village Cafeteria. The stinger consisted of metal utensils (spoons, forks, or knives) attached to an electrical cord that had been cut off of any appliance. The cord was stripped about two inches from the end, so that the wires could be wrapped around each utensil and covered with electrical tape, sometimes with the cap of a Bic pen taped to the side for the purpose of hanging the stinger on the edge of the cup or bowl. Any woman who worked in the maintenance department or inside day labor crew was able to get the tape for you. The utensils were taped together with a clothespin in the center, for a very good reason: the clothespin kept the spoons and wires separated so the positive and negative would not touch. You think Emeril has the corner on BAM? — just let the utensils touch.