Sarah’s Story, Part 1
I struggle sometimes to find the words to describe the women I have had the privilege to work with. I am moved by their stories and the place of honesty from which they tell them; and while I can’t change the legislation that placed them in prison, I can listen with an empathetic ear, and share their stories to those who are open to hearing them.
I want to share with you Sarah’s story. She was kind enough to not only share her story, but allow me to tell it in her own words.
This month I am honored to bring you Part 1 of Sarah’s journey.
My name is Sarah. I am 33 years old. I moved away from my home in Washington State to Oklahoma in February 2003. I’ve been incarcerated for the past 9 years, and I have 25 more years to go until I come up for parole. I was convicted of felony child neglect in August of 2003.
…My case is a little different than most. With my case there aren’t a lot of facts or evidence. It seems to be mainly opinions. It’s hard to fight against opinions because whose opinion am I following? One may say that my actions were not that of neglect, while someone else may say they were. How do you fight a case against someone’s opinion?
I have a story to tell, a story that can change the lives and hearts of many. I would like to share with you that story and allow you to decide for yourself what there is that can be done.
At the time I was charged, the main problem I had was a complete nonexistence of healthy emotional and mental boundaries. I was extremely co-dependant with severely low self-esteem. I lived in a world of being the victim. My needs were constant approval, recognition and validation from others. I would like to take you to the beginning of my story so that you can better understand where I had come from, and what had led me to end up in that place in my life.
I was 3 years old when my parents got divorced. Somehow my dad got full custody of me and my little brother. I didn’t see, or hear from my birth mom again until I was almost 16 years old. It was also when I was 3 years old when my dad first started touching me inappropriately. After the divorce, I became a mommy to my baby brother and a wife to my dad. By the time I turned 7 years old, my dad had remarried and divorced two more times. His third marriage was his final one, and I thought that maybe this time he would stop treating me as his wife, but it didn’t stop-it only became more frequent until eventually it was happening every day of my life -literally. One day, when I was about 12 years old, he had noticed that there was a couple of months break in my monthly cycle. He gave me a pregnancy test. I was pregnant and he was the father. He took me to some clinic and told them that I had been out running around and got myself pregnant. He said I didn’t want the baby. I had no choice but to agree. At 12 years old, I had an abortion. That night I went straight to my room. I wouldn’t eat dinner and I wouldn’t talk to anybody. He came in and had sex with me again that night only this time he used protection. That night hurt worse than any other night.
– See more at: http://www.coachingkidsblog.com/.
Pet Therapy Has Been Long Proven
Pet therapy has been long proven, both anecdotally and through numerous studies, to provide numerous positive impacts on patients. This is evidenced via the numerous programs that exist in hospitals and long term care facilities.
Those of us that are pet owners can speak to the love of our family pet. There is just “something” about the unconditional love that comes from a dog. The wagging tail, drooling… who can resist that face!
There are several programs being implemented in correctional facilities that pair surrendered dogs with inmates across the country, for example:
- Paws in Prison (Arkansas)
- Puppies for Parole (Missouri)
- Project Pooch (Oregon)
- OK Humane (Central Oklahoma Humane Society) in collaboration with the Mabel Bassett Correctional Facility
There are two key areas of benefit to these programs
- The Animal Shelter
The structure of the various animal shelters across the country varies widely. Some have adequate space to house animals while they’re waiting for their “forever families”, some are struggling to keep up with the number of pets being surrendered daily, and others rely on foster families and have very limited ability to keep any animals on site.
In the case of OK Humane, they have no shelter and rely on foster families completely; therefore the ability to foster dogs with behavioral issues in the Mabel Bassett Correctional facility provides them with the opportunity to rescue more surrendered pets from an uncertain future.
- The Inmates
Where to start with the benefits to inmates! Working with the dogs, training and socializing them, has shown to:
- Give inmates the ability to contribute back to society, creating a greater sense of community
- Teach empathy, kindness
- Foster a sense of responsibility
- Create a boost to morale
- Training, grooming and socializing the dogs teaches inmates life skills that they can implement when the re-enter society.
In the case of the program presently in the Mabel Bassett Correctional facility, the dogs are blossoming. Everyone is getting a second chance!
I invite you to learn more about the program currently being run by OK Humane, by watching this video.
– See more at: http://www.coachingkidsblog.com/
Why It’s Important for Me to Blog
So many of my friends and colleagues ask me why I don’t blog more. I wish I had a great reason why, sometimes I blame it on being too busy, but really it comes down to finding a way to take what is a huge story, a HUGE part of my life, and writing just a short piece on it.
However, I know that it is extremely important to do so, for several reasons:
- Blogging regularly gives me the opportunity to thank our amazing volunteers (you do know how amazing you all are!). Without our incredible team, none of what I do would be possible.
- I get to highlight colleagues who are doing equally amazing work in this field. And believe me, I’m not the only one working with incarcerated men and women – I can’t wait to share others with you.
- I may inspire someone by sharing the stories of the women our team gets to work with.
- I’m in a constant state of self-improvement, and so I look to my friends and colleagues to inspire me to be better at what I do, and more effectively communicate with others.
- Oh, and most importantly, I get to thank our amazing volunteers (yes I said that twice, but that is just how important our volunteers are. THANK YOU!).
I think it’s fitting to start with our volunteers.
We have a fabulous team here. Without them very little would get accomplished. The impact you have on the lives of the ladies we serve will impact their lives and their families more than you can know. Just the gesture of volunteering your time is impactful. Add to this your energy and dedication, and your impact expands exponentially.
Not all of our volunteers work directly in the prison system. Our volunteers range from fundraisers and grant writers, to admin help, venue and volunteer coordinators. We’re thankful to them all.
If you’re curious about how to become involved, let me know. I’d love to introduce you to the opportunities available. Our hope is that as we expand our volunteer base, we’ll be able to start working with juvenile/youth facilities. Many hands do make light work, and I’d love for you to be a part of our programs.
So stay tuned to our blog!