It?s All About Us: Getting Ready to Get Out

by Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
During my 20 years of incarceration I witnessed many women come, go, and a lot of times, come back. Those of you still inside know what I?m talking about. Whenever one of our sisters was released, our spirits shared in her victory leaving those prison gates. It was almost like a part of us was leaving as well. We were always so happy to hear stories of different sisters successes outside and not so happy when we heard sad stories or other disappointments. Despite everything, when news hit the compound of how a formerly-incarcerated sister was doing it was always a big deal. Those memories are what inspired me to create this column. I want to share the stories of sisters who are living on the outside after surviving what we lived through. We weren?t meant to survive. The criminal justice system is not designed to deliver us back into society as healthy, whole, and complete human beings. It is by the grace and mercy of God that I was able to leave prison after 20 years and be somewhat whole. While inside, we must do whatever it takes to nurture our spirits and keep our bodies and minds healthy. I will continue to keep you informed of my joys and struggles as well as other sisters who survived after being away from society for such a long time. We hope to feature stories of sisters you have lived with for many years as well.
It is not without damage that we succeed; we just continue to struggle and believe above all that life is worth living. Thank you for the opportunity to share these stories.
Directly prior to my release and for about two months after I kept a daily journal detailing every single moment so I would never forget. I would like to start ?It?s All About Us? by sharing one of those experiences with you. The following words are my actual journal writings.
3 days before release?Preparing to leave this environment is a BIG event for me. Praise be to Allah (God). I am very calm in spite of the madness. Today the mailroom officer talked very crazy to me, asking specifics about why I was expecting a release box, where was I going and when. I answered all her questions with the patience of ?Job.? She further goes on to say that ?my family? is driving them crazy, calling the institution twice today. I politely asked what member of my family kept calling and for what reason. She rudely tells me she didn?t know who was calling but they?re wanting to know what happened to my release box. I told her they may be concerned because I told my friend the release box had not arrived here as of last Friday. It was mailed UPS and delivered to the institution on Thursday 7-18-02, however, the mailroom did not receive it until today, Monday, 7-22-02.
To be continued…