Statistically, women who are incarcerated are likely to have been victims of domestic abuse. Even before their incarceration, they are often prisoners of bad relationships and unhealthy life choices. They don’t know their own worth. They have never been told they have value. Learning about their own self worth can bring a lot of tears to the eyes of those who are incarcerated. Within the confines of the walls, women can uplift each other when given the proper tools.
When Healthy You Inc was recently invited to present our Active Relationships class to the women at Houston County Jail, the participants not only learned a lot about their own self worth, but they had a little fun as well. One day as my colleague and I approached our destination, we noticed a couple of the clerks outside paying close attention to an object in the flower bed. As we walked closer, we realized that they were feeding a chicken. They told us that the hen had ventured close to the road and they were worried she might be road kill. They called her Jail Bird. She had feathers of rust which reminded me of the orange uniforms the ladies in county wear. Because I live on a small farm and have chickens, I offered to take Jail Bird to safety to live with my chickens after our class that day. When class was over, I was met by the clerks who had Jail Bird in a cardboard box taped and windows cut that reminded me of the old prisoner transport wagons. They explained that while in class, they asked one of the male inmates to catch her because she had headed for the highway. I laughed to myself at the image of this and wondered if individuals passing thought this was supposed to be dinner at the jail that evening. Jail Bird was quiet traveling to the farm and upon release with similar birds-of-a-feather, she seems to be settling quite well into probation, showing her appreciation by contributing an egg or two. The students in the class, however, showed their appreciation by contributing their stories.
“For several years, my life has been an uphill battleground with alcohol. I’ve been in and out of jail. I felt hopeless. I looked for treatment several times, but to me, AA was a way of helping me get out of trouble with the law, just to get the signatures and move on. However, this last arrest opened my eyes a little wider so that I could see. At this time, I got serious about the way I was living my life. Of course, I started AA again but I took it seriously this time. I even started courses through the chaplain at the jail. That all helped and on the day the chaplain came in the dorm and announced that he has started a class and if we wanted to go, come on. I decided to go. It was the best decision I ever made. The class changed my life. ‘Active Relationships’ helped me look at life in different ways, not only from my point of view, but from others as well. I learned how valuable I am. I now know what I do affects others, my kids being number one. My whole outlook on life has changed. I take time to think before I do anything. The class really changed my life in a few short weeks. The instructors are caring and understanding. They didn’t look at me as a prisoner, they treated me with respect and caring. Taking AA and this class is what I needed, because both of them together gave me a new life, a better way of living. Now I can be the woman God wants me to be!” –Rebecca
“This class has helped me understand about relationship with my mother. I have been deaf my whole life. I blamed my mom for a long time but now I can try to get along with her since she realizes that I am trying to change and better myself. I was also a drug addict. I ran to drugs to solve my problems but now I’ve learned that drugs don’t solve it. to use the SMART cards to stop arguing and cool off or give each other time away then come back and talk calmly. I’ve been working on myself in class, she even accepted to go to class with me to work on our relationship! –JoAnna
“I want to thank my facilitators for all they have done for me. I was married to my husband for 10 years. He was not a very nice man at times, but I felt helpless and felt less than. I didn’t feel like I deserved any better so I stayed. My husband died in December 2013. I really felt helpless when he passed. But since I have been taking this class I have become so much stronger. I know now that I am valuable and I do deserve a better life. I do deserve someone to treat me with respect and love. I have learned how to pick out good characteristics, not only a partner, but in people in general. I believe the class has helped turned my life around. I have higher self esteem now and believe I can do anything I put my mind to. Thank you. You are life savers.” –Tina
“I have been on drugs since I was 15 years old. I have been in and out of bad relationships since I was 17 years old. This has all caused me to be in and out of jail and prison due to drinking and drugs. I am incarcerated for a very serious crime that would never have happened if I was living my life right. Since I’ve been here I have taken ‘Active Relationships.’ This class has really changed my way of thinking. I now know what to look for in a relationship, not just with a man, but with my family also. I now know that I am somebody and I deserve better. I thank God I had a chance to take this class.” –Gracie