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Acquitting Yourself

I was recently asked IMG_4463by a woman who took one of my classes if I would meet with her privately and help her explain her conviction.  We met and she told me about her crime and I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to help her.  The crime was hard to explain, and the way the government charged her made it even more difficult.  She told me that she just started serving a 20 year sentence.  After some consideration I thought It might be better for her to focus on healing rather than explaining her conviction.  I told her that I didn’t know the best words for her yet, but I would put some thought into it and get beck to her. We had some time left, so I decided to get to know her better, and asked how her first year in prison has been.  She said, “I stay busy all the time! If I have time to think about things my mind starts to race, so I take a lot of classes. I know how important school is!” I complimented her on taking classes, and asked her how she liked living in her unit? She told me, “It’s not bad. Sometimes people say mean things because of my crime, but I don’t really care.”  I said: “I’m sorry they do that, prison can be a cruel place. I think I would feel bad if people said those things to me.” She said: “I don’t really care what people think, I can handle myself!” I smiled and told her: “You are a strong woman! I hope you know how special you are. I think you have important things to do at this prison; your experiences could really help others!” She became emotional and said: “All I ever wanted was to be was a good mother. I love my kids so much. ” I told the woman that she could be a good mother in prison, “If you make good decisions, and focus on healing your heart, your children will heal too.” Right before we had to leave I added, “You made a mistake and got involved in pornography and you know you never should have done that. Isn’t that what happened?” She looked at me for a minute, and said: “Ya that’s what happened. I said: “That’s how I would explain your conviction.” She asked me if I would say it again. She said; “Could you say that one more time, I just felt a huge burden lifted off of my shoulders.”

I don’t know why helping women re-frame their mistakes can have such a powerful impact?  When I started teaching, Explaining Your Conviction, I was trying to help women prepare for job interviews. Now I teach the class to give women hope, and to help them find out who they really are. When we make mistakes we convict ourselves! It doesn’t really matter what the government says, they’re usually wrong anyway:) I want women to face their mistakes, because when we make mistakes we convict ourselves, and I believe it’s within our power to acquit ourselves. The solution is what matters! I want women to know there is a way to be free! In a class I took recently the teacher pointed out thinking errors that lead to destructive behavior. One of the students raised her hand and said: “So if we get the right tools in here we don’t ever have to come back to prison? I thought: “If we have a change of heart in here we will free ourselves, and there will be no need for prisons!” It is possible to be happy in any circumstances. It’s easy when you’re in prison to think that if the circumstances were different you would be much happier. But when I look outside myself for happiness I empower other things to make me happy. If the problem is inside of me, then I know I can solve the problem? I’m pretty passionate about women empowering themselves, and solving the problems within their own hearts! If I wait for the government to let me out of jail to be happy I might be waiting for a while? Why would I want to give the government that kind of power? I’m not saying we can do this on our own: I’ve tried that and failed! We need to find our God, and make room for His Grace; He has all power!

It was the darkest experience of my life that taught me how valuable I am to my Father in Heaven. When I suffered a partial mental breakdown 3 weeks before my trial I was extremely vulnerable and unable to speak. My prosecutors asked a Federal judge to put me in jail for a mental evaluation, and I was taken to a county jail to wait to be transferred to a Federal facility for the evaluation. Shortly after I arrived at the county jail several male officers held me down and stripped my clothes off of me; one particularly brutal officer slammed my head into a table so hard I suffered permanent damage to my right eye. For women preparing to come to prison who read my blog: “The treatment I am describing is unusual. I haven’t seen any women in federal prison or county jail treated the way I was.” While I was being held in the county jail I was left for several days in a small cement cell without clothing in full view of other male inmates and officers. When I pounded on the window to my cell several male officers congregated and began to laugh. One of the officers pointed at me and said: “Look at her, she looks like an animal!” I was sitting on the floor completely naked when he said those words, and I felt a calm come over me. I stood up with all the dignity I could possess and said: “This is going to end so badly for all of you; It’s awful that you would degrade yourselves like this. I’m sorry, there is nothing I can do to help any of you; you have done this to yourselves!” I’ve thought about those words over the years and decided that being alone, naked, scared, and vulnerable wasn’t enough to destroy my value; and no title or success was ever enough to give me value. It’s not what we do that matters most, it’s who we are! When we know who we are, it is easier to know what to do. I will be filing my appeal this week, and should hear something in about 6 to 9 months. I will keep you all posted, and appreciate your support. I feel such gratitude for the joy and happiness I have right now. I feel very connected to my family, and feel blessed to feel close to all of you. I’m looking forward to a bright future, and thank you all for following along.IMG_4462

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