These stories were written by men and women who participated in the Woman’s Opportunity Rehabilitation Center (WORC). The women participated as an alternative to an incarceration program and the men participated in a vocational and educational component to the program. The workshop took place over three days with support and guidance to help formulate their page one moments.
I was recently arrested for possession of a firearm. I was careless and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. I was lucky when I was arrested because I was released the next day with an electronic monitoring device. I was given the ankle monitor and asked to return to court the following month. I was under house arrest, and I did not do well. During that month, I broke the rules. I broke curfew. I let the battery die; I went to places I should not have been. And when I appeared in court, they still gave me another chance to do better. But I did not do better. I thought I was lucky because my case was sent to Nassau County Family Court as I am a juvenile.
The Family Court rules were different. They were stricter and I soon found myself remanded to the Juvenile Detention Center.
After I was placed in jail, I was feeling very ashamed. I spent a whole month locked up. While in custody, it was terrible. The food was disgusting. The food was so bad that I had to save my snacks. The snacks came from other people who were in the same dorm as me. Most of the people that gave me snacks, I knew from the streets.
It seems that a typical day in custody was all planned. You are required to get up at 7:30 a.m. to get dressed and they let you out of your cell at 8:30. Then at 9:00 they served breakfast. We had breakfast in the facility cafeteria. The cafeteria had a sports and activity mural on the drab beige walls. I was confused because we were not allowed to play sports. At 9:30 a.m. is when the school program begins. The school program was nothing. We watched videos on YouTube and we watched CNN and then we were required to write about what we saw. They said it was current events work. But it meant nothing to me because we did not receive any credits towards our education once we were released.
After the school program, we got to go to lunch in the same drab beige cafeteria. The food was still disgusting. I couldn't eat and I missed my freedom. The thing about being in custody is that on the weekend there was no school and we did nothing but hang out in the dorm. We were locked in our cells from 3-4 every day. You earned time out of your cell based on levels. I came in at level 0 which meant I went to bed at 8:30 and then I reached level 1 and went to bed 9:00, however, I never made it past level 1. Because of my level I only got two phone calls and two visits each week.
The month in custody made me understand that I could not blow this second chance. If I blew the second chance I would be going upstate to prison for 18 months. I was terrified. The thought of eating the terrible food, taking cold showers, no phone calls, no visits and no outside contact made me question the people I was with, the places I was going and the things I was doing. I knew that I needed to change or I was going to lose my life to the system.
Painting by Gwynne Duncan