This is the final installment of Jane’s* story, but her journey is far from over. She has written a series of letters to the DA involved in her case, the DHS worker, even her landlord. Each letter is filled with heart wrenching details, all looking for the same thing, to be heard and maybe even understood.
And now to let Jane finish her story:
The cause of the fire was ruled as undetermined. The two fire departments could never agree. One says that it was electrical and started in my room. The other one said it started with an open flame in the children’s bedroom closet. One thing that they both agreed on, however, was the fact that the house was 83 years old and made of asbestos. That along with all the fans had made the fire spread rapidly….causing an inferno within minutes.
Two months later, on October 18th, I was arrested and charged with 9 counts of felony child neglect. Yes, nine! Three for the night of the fire, failure to adequately supervise my home, and three for each DHS visit. It seems as if the DA changed their mind and decided those 6-9 months prior, I really did neglect my babies. His opinion must have changed, because the facts from those two DHS visits remained the same. I’ve never understood how they could do that. How they could just change their mind about something like that. There were a lot of things that happened that I never understood, but I could never get anyone to listen to me.
My voice was never loud enough.
I was convicted on the 13th of February 2004. I could have taken a plea bargain for 10 years but I believed I didn’t do anything wrong and I knew a jury would see that I was a good mom. I never had the strength, confidence or the knowledge to fight. I always just accepted life. My quietness and my fear were always misunderstood. I was always trying to figure out who I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to act. I never had a mind or identity of my own. I had no value of myself …but like I said, I was misinterpreted as someone who just didn’t care, or for someone who’s trying to hide something. There are so many things I did as a mommy and in the weeks following the fire, that they say I did out of selfishness. Things that they say proved that I was a bad mom, but I was never able to explain my side of anything. When I tried, no one heard me. Some of these things, I absolutely did ….but definitely not for the reasons that they gave. One would have to know me and where I came from to understand why I did the things I did and thought the way that I thought. I made a lot of choices and decisions that were twisted around to portray me as a monster, when really I was only trying to be a good mommy.
I couldn’t possibly include all of those instances here. But, I would like to include one example to show you what I am talking about. The little house that we moved into was a big open square. All of the inner rooms had no doors, they had all been removed. The babies all shared a room. Their bedroom had 2 doorways, one door way led into my room, the other doorway led into the kitchen. From the kitchen, they had access to the back door leading outside or into the living room and out the front door. Isaiah and Makayla loved to go exploring and they always tried to explore the refrigerator or anything else while mommy was still asleep (as all kids do). For some odd reason they would never come and wake me up to go explore with them at 6:00 in the morning. I was always so afraid they would figure out a way to get outside. I saw the perfect opportunity to finally beat my 2 and 3 year old at their game. I used 2 of the dressers to block the door way leading to the kitchen. This would force them to have to come through my room when they woke up, therefore waking me up. I thought it was brilliant ….but in court they suggested that I blocked that doorway and set the fire in my room to trap the babies in their room…. leaving them nowhere to go. That “one” thing was twisted so easily …. changing one’s perspective of who I am. Things like this happened all the time and without me being able to explain, details were twisted and taken out of context to create a negative picture ….therefore influencing one’s opinion. Most of my trial is a big blur to me. I just remember thinking that things weren’t right. I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. Now that I have a clearer head and I’m at a healthier place in my life, I would really like to get a hold of all my depositions and interviews and my trial transcripts. So many things just weren’t right… I just can’t remember. I am so much more confident in myself today. I know who I am. I have the courage and the strength to fight and I am asking for your help to do so.
What I was convicted of was the product and end result of a lifetime of clouded and distorted thinking…which led to poor and unhealthy choices. I didn’t do what they say I did, However, I did make many seemingly unimportant decisions which caused me to be in that place in my life. Those decisions were made by a mother who was extremely broken and damaged and this resulted in a tragedy. I lost everything that mattered to me because I have allowed myself to remain a victim of my past. During my time in prison I have become a survivor with the help of programs and classes. I have found myself. I have gained self-confidence and self-esteem. I have found my strength and my voice. I still have work to do on my emotional well-being, but I have come so far.
I made a lot of mistakes as a mommy; I broke a lot of rules. I handled many things the wrong way, but one thing I’ve never done, was intentionally or maliciously harm or neglect my babies. I am asking you to help me convince society to give me a chance to live a normal healthy life, and to give back by using my voice to help others.
I want to personally thank you for listening in on Jane’s* story. There are so many young ladies who are in our prison system who want their story to be heard.
What do stories like Jane’s* mean to me?
I find them motivating. When working in the prison system I’m faced with challenges. Getting access to the ladies, restrictions on when we can conduct our sessions, lockdowns, it’s sometimes tough to get momentum. But being able to work with ladies like Jane*, who are continuously looking to positively impact the lives of others, as well as their own, despite the past. That is motivating.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.