Why in the world start a nonprofit helping people in prison? The answers are simple for me but there are three of them and it gets complicated. They’re simple but they aren’t easy. So instead of laying them all on ya in one felt swoop I decided it would be better if I did a trilogy of sorts. The Trilogy of Reasons seams like an amazing title. So Trilogy of Reasons, Part Two: I Should DEFINITELY Be In Jail. If you missed the first reason you can read it here.
I’m a recovering addict. I have over 11 years clean and have spent the better part of the last decade reveling in the reality that I’m not in jail when I should be. The amount of drugs I did, the times I drove when I shouldn’t, the times I did stupid things and either didn’t get caught or was let go instead is insane. My second DUI (just a mere 5 months after my first) was going the wrong way on a local road with a split median. It was late, 2am.
I was so drunk I couldn’t even do the field sobriety test. Instead, I leaned up against the car and said, “Can you just take me to jail ossiffer?” And shortly after that statement I blew a stunning .208 blood alcohol content. My car reeked of smoke from cigarettes and it was trashed as it always was in those days. So it wasn’t apparent that the cute little white drunk girl, who was saying she was driving home intoxicated was to avoid being sexually harassed (a true statement actually… not making that one up), might have “things” in her car.
What things or how much of them I had I’ll leave for you to imagine. Maybe they wouldn’t have had a right to search my car anyway. I’m no lawyer. But what I do know is that if they had, the laws at that time would have meant at least a 10-year sentence and maybe more. It is not lost on me that had I been in a different part of town or different skin color that the officers would’ve found some way to search it. My privilege, my placement and my gender are the reasons why I am not in jail serving a sentence today.
Call me lucky or call it reality but I have spent the last decade of recovery in a state of gratitude. The idea that I NOT give back to the population who HAS been affected by the color of their skin or the part of town they live in seems ludicrous at best. A few blocks down the road or a shade of skin darker and the officers would have found a reason to search my car. Perhaps I’d still be clean, perhaps I’d still be an amazing person but I wouldn’t have had my child, my education nor would I have had the opportunity to do something different. So I walk into a transition center with a story of luck and privilege but desire for change. I can do something different than my society deems as acceptable.
So I go into jails and work with women so they learn a skill that makes them marketable and so they can give themselves a life that isn’t dominated by felonies, poverty and recidivism. THAT is something I can do because I didn’t go to jail myself. It’s really so simple in the face of such devastating realities that my privilege and skin color won me my freedom.