The Community of Women Inside

by Charisse Shumate, CCWF
[We are particularly pleased to print articles which support solidarity between prisoners – Editors]
When my crime took place, I was driven with guilt, I believed that I was not worthy of love and that I could never ever love again. I could not stand for anyone to touch me. I held everything inside, not knowing who I could talk to or if I could trust anyone. After the third year of my 17-to-life sentence, I started to try and open up in one-on-one therapy. I knew I needed help but did not know how to ask for it. Then my sickle cell disease caused me to be housed at an outside hospital, cut off from the little mental support that I had just started to receive. I was forced to stay there even though I was not sick because of being at high risk for sudden death.
After nine months of being housed at a hospital, I was transferred to the new state-of-the-art medical facility at CCWF. We lifers are all on different yards and units so lifer support is cut off. There were no self-help groups when I first got here, so some of us got together once a week on the main yard and started our own battered women’s support group.
For the first time in five years I could open up and talk about the pain.
I met other prisoners who shared the very same pain and we learned to heal together. There I met a woman by the name of “Mary S.” For the next three years we shared our deepest, darkest secrets as well as our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families. Mary is a peer counselor for the HIV women. There is no one that she does not greet with open arms and a prayer. She has been an ear to always listen and a shoulder to cry on. She is a God-sent angel right here behind prison walls. Now if I had not come to CCWF, I would never
have met Mary who I now call my sister.
Thank you Lord and thank Mary for being just as you are.