Ally stood at the door of her small studio apartment while her baby slept inside. She proudly told me that she just regained her parental rights after losing them in 2012 for drug possession. It was easy to see how hard she has been working to prove to herself & the courts that she is a fit parent. Brianna just kept on sleeping peacefully in the next room.
Sylvia stopped by my office to pick up the pillow & prayer flag she had made while in Red Tent class at the jail. At first, I did not recognize her. She kept a big smile on her face & told me that she now has hope for the first time in “many, many years. Now I have people around me that want to be here for me & that really care. I can really do it this time.”
I got a phone call from Tina’s mom late Thursday. She cried to me that her 21 year old daughter was not going to be able to make it now that she was out of jail. “She can’t find work & I can’t let her come live with me because the state won’t allow it. I have custody of my granddaughter so she cannot stay here with us. They can put her back in jail if she tries to sleep at the house with us.” I left a message for Tina but I still have not heard back from her….
Stephanie proudly told the group yesterday that she got into the half-way house in St. Pete. she had been waiting to hear back from. Two other Red Tent graduates are already there so she will be in good company. She looked nervous about leaving jail & excited to start her new life now that she is clean. Some of the staff is going to surprise the girls next week with a visit!
Tara is only 20 years old & has already been arrested 3 times for possession of drugs & paraphernalia. She cried during her last Red Tent class, getting ready to leave jail after 7 months of confinement.
“I am so scared,” she said in a low, quiet voice. “How am I going to find a job & who is going to hire me with this kind of record?”
Tara had faithfully attended every Red Tent class we offered but now was afraid she could not keep herself together once she was released & faced the same friends she had partied with before her arrest.
In fact, 35% of the women who are incarcerated in the State of Florida return to jail within 3 months due to the lack of community programs & employment opportunities available for ex-offenders.
Wanda cried was while she described the fear and guilt she felt since losing custody of her two children; 6 & 8 year old boys who had been placed in foster care during her recent incarceration. “I thought my sister was going to be able to keep them until I got out but after losing her job, she decided they were too much work for her. I had no one else to take care of them so the state took them away. Now, all I can think about is getting them back and making a new home for them.”