Parole – a Time for Hope, but Pitfalls Wait

by N. Duran, VSPW
I have a few months ’till I parole. I am excited about it but also a little scared.
I would like to be paroled to live with my mother and my daughter in the Central Valley. But I might be forced to parole in Oakland, where I committed the crime.
You get $200 when you leave here. If you don’t have family send you clothes, you have to pay for the one change of clothes out of that money. It costs probably at least $50 to get from here to Oakland.
And then what? You have to find the parole office in Oakland, report there, then the welfare office to sign up for aid. You know aid won’t start for a while. Most women are anxious to be re-united with their children, but how can you even think of getting them out of the system under these conditions?
Housing in Oakland is hard to find. I have been writing to various agencies to help me find something, but so far they have not responded. So if you are forced to sleep under a bridge and a policeman approaches you, you can be in violation of parole. Any contact with police, even if you don’t do anything wrong, can be a violation of parole and a reason to be sent back to prison. Many women are in here not because they did anything wrong, but because they were found in violation of their parole. That is not right. It is also not right to allow hearsay as evidence. Even when no charges are filed, because there is no evidence, just someone’s accusation is enough to violate you.
Many women do have additional crimes for which they are convicted while they are on parole. When you come to a city without any resources you do what you have to. It’s not hard to understand.
They don’t provide any way for you to take care of yourself in here. A lot of women in here have only known abuse: to abuse others or to be abused. The prison doesn’t provide anything that would help them learn anything different. I was molested when I was 5 years old by a 19-year-old. How could he be allowed to do that? By 12 I was sexually active. But how can a 12-year-old give consent? It’s not right. I grew up very spoiled and selfish, which is what got me here.
I have changed a lot in my 4 years here. But none of that was because of what the prison did. By living so close with other women I learned that people are as they are, not as I would want them to be. It’s no good telling one that she should take a shower. She’ll do it when she is ready. What you can do is not get upset about it. I don’t get in fights any more and others don’t hit me.
I changed through my relationship with other women, to accept them as they are, to consider their wishes. You don’t always get your way and, who knows, you might even like somebody else’s way if you try it.
I look forward to getting out, getting to know my daughter again. She will be 9 when I get out. I intend to work hard and stay out of trouble. I’d like to work with CCWP. So many things are not right. Things must change drastically.