Companeras Talk About Parole
I taught myself English when I came to prison. During my sentencing I wasn?t
able to ask questions, so I would just go with what the interpreter said. I wanted
to have the advantage of knowing English for my parole hearings, because it
all depends on having the right words. Many people from the Latino Community
are naïve about prison. Many times people don?t have the English vocabulary to know about things like Marsy?s law. I try to educate them. Being in prison, there is so much shame,guilt and embarrassment. Often we English as Second Language Speakers just agree, nod, but the reality is we don?t understand the consequences. Language creates a huge barrier. Some take it as a game?they don?t want to ask questions because they have their pride. I am proud of my accomplishments. Prison has been an education for me. It is what you make it.
When you go to the board, you better have your GED. It took me 5 years to
get mine. I taught myself and studied on my own. I kept having to re-take
exam because I would run out of time; being ESL it just took me longer. ESL
classes were the first to get cut.
Parole Board has gotten tougher. People in my situation must now have
parole plans in their country of origin too, even if they are not being deported.
It didn?t used to be that way. We need support in connecting with
the consuls of our home countries. We need to express the importance of support when people go to board when we are being deported. It doesn?t work if your plan is just ?Call us when you get here.? We need to have specific parole
People can be vindictive in here. When you get things on your record like absences in programming, that goes into your c-file even if it?s not your fault. That affects your chances of getting out. When something like that happens because of the cruelty of others, it means that I look worse when I go before the board, even though I?m trying so hard to turn myself around. I first came in when she was young. I used to act out a lot. haven?t done that for years but I still have a bad reputation for it.
The board has denied me 4 times. Three times for two years each, and
the last time for five years. I don?t have any disciplinary write-ups on my
record or prior convictions. I think the main reason I have been denied is because of my crime, and because I don?t grovel at their feet and overflow with
shame and remorse. They want you to say that you?re guilty. I have a C-file
full of great Chronos (science class, anger management, parenting?even
though my kids are grown?and on). I have a job lined up on the outside,
family support and detailed parole plans laid out both in the US and my
country of origin. I?ve been here for 15 years and feel that I have paid for my
crime because I didn?t even directly hurt anyone. I just feel so hopeless.
If officers don?t like you, they?ll provoke you. Some officers don?t want people to speak Spanish, so they?ll hold it against you. I remember someone was speaking Spanish in the classroom, and the teacher said, ?This is America, you speak English.? Some other people stood up for her and they all got 115s. Also, when people make hooch or whatever in your cell, you can?t tell. If you don?t tell you might just get a 115. If you do tell, you get a 115 and you get your ass kicked. Every 115 adds 180 days (6 months) to one?s sentence.
I grew up in Mexico City and had a hard life financially. My parents were
educated and were professionals but could not find work. We came to the
United States but they could not find professional work because of the language
I am in prison because I took justice into my own hands. In my culture that
is more acceptable than in this culture. Prison is more trauma after trauma. I
didn?t know about resources to help women who experience domestic
violence. When paroled, you either go to [an immigration] holding tank or you get deported. People are being released into violent countries with human rights abuses. People have such apprehensions. They don?t know the laws. How do we protect ourselves? We are so vulnerable.
A lot has changed outside. People need guidance when they are paroled. I face many detriments: financially; I am female; I am Hispanic; I?m a felon. Being in prison is a disability, a handicap. Many organizations that help people transition are motivated by religion. I don?t want that.
Companeras Talk About Parole