The Turn Around
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.
For as long as I can remember I was affected by the criminal justice system. I would visit my uncles, brothers, and cousins with my grandmother and mother, who both, no matter what they did, supported them. From a very young age I was able to see the effects it took on my family financially as well as mentally. Watching my mother raise her children with the help of her mother showed me that in the event of an emergency never fold. I witnessed my brother in 1980 being dragged out of his bed by the police. This was something I will never forget. After many court appearances and him being sentenced to two years I thought that would be the end but was just the beginning to our family nightmare with Nassau County and upstate NY prisons and court system.
It took many visits and heartfelt tears before one day in October of 1990 I had three brothers and two cousins all arrested in a drug sting that then affected everyone. There were so many things which rocked our family, our name. Coming from a family which is well known in the community, this created a wedge amongst individuals who worked in law enforcement or health and human service areas. But as they say, a family that prays together stays together, they were all sentenced to federal time, from 6-10 years each, they were all handed time to think. After their release, they all worked jobs and somehow they managed to save and start a trucking business which is now in both Long Island and Atlanta and are doing well.
These experiences I thought would have taught me a lesson or two, well it didn't. I never experienced going to jail but I experienced dealing with someone who lived a street life and had real-life experience with the criminal justice system firsthand. Now everything I witnessed my mother and grandmother go through, I was now playing the same role to my son's father, the jail visits, the police kicking in our door and even handcuffing my then 15-year-old son thinking he was an adult. That very moment I was angry, frustrated because they didn't believe me as I screamed, he's a child. It didn't bother me that the police had kicked in my door. It didn't bother me that they were yelling, "Get on the floor, get on the floor." It didn't even bother me that they were yelling and pointing guns at me. That changed when I realized they were handcuffing my 15-year-old son. Everything around me went silent. I was no longer laying on the floor in my beautiful home. The home that I created for my children so they could live comfortably. I was no longer the person that was unbothered. I realized in that moment that the choices I made were leading to consequences for my child. In that silence, I realized that my life needed to change. That’s when I knew I had enough of this lifestyle. The abuse is real! This was my breaking point!
There isn't anything more important than my child, so I prayed to God to remove any and everything that was harming our life and mustered up the strength to walked away from it all. The money, the cars, the finer things and the fake prestige. I worked, I went to school, I created a different lane for myself and my son. I even went on to marry my late husband who was in law enforcement. I now give back to our community, the community that I participated in causing harm to, by speaking to our young people and adults in areas that I may have knowledge and expertise in. So, I say this to say there is life after the storms which may have occurred but it's never too late to turn it around.
Painting by Gwynne Duncan