It?s All About Us: Jail Health and Re-entry

by Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
?It?s All About Us? is a regular column for formerly-incarcerated women to express and share their joys and struggles on the outside. Please submit your stories to share with those we left inside.
We began this column in our last Fire Inside with me sharing my journal entiries upon release. I have since decided I cannot adequately share those writings in the limited newsletter space. However, I have a life out here full of drama and detail that I?ll share with you my sisters inside. We welcome formerly-incarcerated sisters to use this space to connect with those we left inside.

My days are full of calls and meetings that seem to never end. I recently took part in a Jail Health and Reentry Roundtable where a group of academics and activists got together to discuss issues concerning women in jail and after release. One of the guiding principles that I respect about CCWP is that the women inside are considered the experts of their own experiences. Much can be accomplished by listening and taking direction from those who are presently or have been directly affected by this problem.
Many important discussions were started at this roundtable. Women prisoners have different needs than men while inside and upon release. Women re-entering society are anxious about reuniting with their children and often place their own specific health care needs on the back burner.
We who advocate for women prisoners must keep the interests of women in the minds and hearts of those who can make changes in the prison system. A dear friend of mine recently said to me, ?education is a weapon?. One of the main ideas I shared with the group was the fact that the healing and leadership training for women coming out must begin while we are still inside the prison walls. I know this only too well from my personal experience. Without the support from those who cared on the outside, I would not have been given the weapons to battle this beast of a system we are fighting together.
Please send me your suggestions for what I need to take into some of these meetings about the issues of women coming out of prison.. Peace, blessings and love.