Reframing Justice: What No One Wants To Hear

While I was incarcerated at Marana State Prison, another inmate gave me a poem she wrote called “What No One Wants to Hear”.  *It’s a pretty heavy poem- it captures a lot of the emotion of being incarcerated- anger, sadness, isolation, and inhumanity.

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Handwritten poem “What One Wants to Hear”

I had been in and out of the system starting at the age of 26, each time as a consequence of my addiction to cocaine and crack.  When I first read the poem I felt its truth.  It illustrates how we feel as formerly incarcerated people as we try to enter back into society, and describes how others see us.

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Michele and her mother, Shirley

When I got out this last time, what I found most challenging was that I had no family support. My mom had passed away in 2004, which was my breaking point in life.  I say “her death brought me life” because her death helped me to pursue sobriety. For a long time, my life in Arizona was about doing/selling drugs.  I say “her death brought me life” because her death helped me to pursue sobriety. For a long time, my life in Arizona was about doing/selling drugs.  That was actually a barrier to re-entry for me- I didn’t have a community of support to return to when I got out.  Ultimately, what helped me overcome and rebuild my life was the support and resources I gained from the counselors in the Women in Recovery program I attended at Southern Arizona Correctional Release Center, which no longer exists.

Now I work as a Behavioral Health Tech and Senior Instructional Specialist.  In my work, I am able to make a difference in the lives of people who are struggling with issues that are familiar to those I have been through myself.  I feel fortunate to be able to make a positive impact in people’s lives.  My life is different now, I am sober, I have gone to school, I own my own home and my own car.  My daughter is excelling at a great school- these are all things that make me proud.  However, even though I’ve been out nine years I still sometimes get judged because of my past.

Michele's newly constructed home

Michele’s newly constructed home

While inside, much of the time you are referred to by your prison number, which makes it easy to lose your sense of self. I’ve held on to this poem for all of these years because it reminds me of how I don’t want to be seen as a “number.”The poem reminds me not to judge others because of their past poor choices.  It helps me remember where I have been, and what I don’t want to go back to.  It reminds me that I am blessed to have gotten to the place I am at today. Because of my experiences, I am committed to doing everything I can do to help others in their journey to recovery.

 

Michele and her youngest daughter

Michele and her youngest daughter

* To read complete poem click here.

 

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