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.


“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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


Letters & Insights | April 2020

Linda A.

“If there is one thing I have learned from this process is how to adjust and move on in stride.”

I was released from prison June 18, 2019 after serving a sentence of 21 years! For me survival was tough. I was picked up by the program director Jaqueline White. Life seemed like it was going to be a piece of cake in my eyes. My thoughts were always get out, get a job, save money and buy a house and life would be good because I would be living life and not just existing. Boy, what thoughts can do? Who am I? I had no clue of who I was and had to do a lot of work to place myself back into society. I called my family to get my birth certificate, social security card and supposedly medi-cal was established before I left prison.  And none of this was possible or taken care of. So who was I?

 Crossroads staff and a host of volunteers showed me how to do it for myself without getting discouraged. Oh technology these days. I ordered my birth certificate online, got my ID from the DMV and went to social services to get my medi-cal started. Now I was becoming somebody and regaining my self-esteem, reality was setting in because I wasn’t just a number anymore.

Now that I can be called by my name and have a place to call home I felt loved for the first time in a long time, something that was completely foreign to me. After 3 months of being in the program I got my identity back as well as a stable job. It felt wonderful getting up every day to go to my job and serve the senior citizens who come for a warm lunch and some much needed friendly conversation.

Then one day I walked into work to find out my services were no longer needed because of Covid 19. This virus has not just put a stumbling block in my way but all over the world people are suffering. A lot of changes have taken place between the time I got out of prison and the outbreak of this virus which has thrown me back into survival mode but not fear nor panic. If there is one thing I have learned from this process is how to adjust and move on in stride.

Now I have to learn patience, unity and how not to fear the unknown. Because of this quarantine I am now more connected to my family and friends due to the advancement of technology. I get to continue with school on-line which is a plus which helps me continue to grow as a new and skillful women.  Because of the women who came before me I am able to provide my skills of service to the new women as they arrive to the program after being released from prison. I will give them love, support and the loving arms of family as they need it as well as help them cook and become a wholesome young women of the community.

I will not let this virus take my self-esteem or self-worth. I have to say my Crossroads family has given me the strength to handle the situation we are currently in. Thank you for your support and love for it is greatly appreciated.

—Linda A.


“I may not be able to do all the things I had in mind when I first got released but I have a great environment to grow as a successful human being as long as I use my tools in a proper manner.”

On February 18, 2020 I was released from prison and came to Crossroads to begin my program. I longed to see my family so I was granted permission to see my daughter the second Thursday after arriving at the house which was a blessing. As time went on I started working the program everyday which started with a 7:00 AA meeting in the morning and afterwards meetings at the office which included Anger Management, Job Retention, Computer Training as well as Anger & Grief. 

Slowly but surely the news and the radio started talking about the effects of Covid-19 in China and across the globe. So many people were losing their livelihoods and sense of well-being due to this disease at a rampant rate, so they put an order in affect that says we should stay in the house and wear mask when we go out and practice social distancing to cut down on the spread of the disease.

This meant no visits either in or out which put a damper on many of our moods. Now we do two groups in the morning with our regular staff because all of the volunteers are busy protecting themselves from this virus. Which puts Sister Terry & Ms. Jackie in the position to teach our groups.

Even though I can’t see my family like I want to I am able to talk to them on the phone as well as connect through the use of the internet. We have just started going back to our therapy sessions which is good because it gives us an outlet to express our feelings which are otherwise bottled up.

I may not be able to do all the things I had in mind when I first got released but I have a great environment to grow as a successful human being as long as I use my tools in a proper manner.



Before being released from prison, I had certain expectations, and goals that I set for myself. Upon arrival at the program I found out that many things have changed due to the COVID crisis. Which means that all the incentives I would have earned or enjoyed, were now put on hold until further notice.

Those incentives that consisted of me being allowed family visits, cell phone, travel passes and finding a job have all been put on hold. These small, and maybe insignificant things, were something I looked forward to for a very long time.

Although disappointing, I choose to stay positive and look for other ways to achieve my goals. I have modified my program to follow rules as well as the stay at home order. Thank God for technology and the internet. It allows me to stay connected, regardless of the COVID 19.  I am able to connect with family, friends, and educational programs so that I do not fall behind.

What a blessing. I am so grateful to my God Jesus Christ, and my new family at Crossroads. They are a huge help for my sanity, and peace of mind.

Crossroads offers various groups and activities to help everyone cope through these difficult times. Every time I think of complaining, I remember the homeless and starving people who have nothing.  I pray that they find food and shelter to survive through this crisis that has swept through our nation and the whole world.  Let this crisis be a lesson to us all.  May God bless us all.



From Where I Sit – Sr. Terry

I grew up in Lakewood … a short 35 miles from Claremont. As a kid in the 50’s, our backyards were safe havens. Typically, you could tell where everyone was, from the noise drifting over the rooftops. We played together, got into fights, plotted grandiose schemes, and dreamed of what life would be like when we “grew up.”

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the “life” that happens in the Harvard House backyard. Thanks to Life Bible Fellowship Church in Upland, it has been upgraded and transformed into a beautiful safe haven complete with a meditative bench in the “Lifer’s Rose Garden.”

However, what catches my interest each time I am in the backyard is the large tree that is central and provides significant shade to most of the area. In many ways it is representative of both Crossroads and the women we serve.

In my early days at Crossroads, it was more of a nuisance than anything else. It was mostly dirt and dried leaves below the scraggly branches, and it was impossible for grass to
grow beneath it. Sometime in the 90’s it was cut down to a stump that was a little too high for sitting but provided a good perch for brewing sun tea.

At some forgotten point in time, the tree took on a new life of its own. Shoots not only sprouted from the stump but completely overgrew it. A few women in the program, who had worked in forestry, took the tree into their care – pruning the right branches and allowing sunlight to filter through. The branches are twisted and scattered but today it provides a beautiful canopy of shade for the women to enjoy sitting outside … listening to the birds … writing in their journals … visiting with family and friends … a safe haven.

Sr. Terry

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.