A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Monique Hall
It is sad to say, but lately, the statistics of women, especially young black women, going to prison are rising more with each passing day. I know this fact to be true without having to do research because I, unfortunately, was one of these statistics. I have experienced being an inmate first hand.
If you take a look at my background demographics, there is no way I should have ended up in any prison cell. I came from a loving two parent home. I was a high school graduate. I was even elected as Student Government president of both my high school and college. I also received a full basketball scholarship to Paine College. I was given more opportunities for a good life than anyone could have ever asked. Yet, despite all of this, I spent 23 months of my young life in a prison cell for making poor choices.
Like a lot of black women, “I got caught up” in life. I was hustling, trying to stack my paper and beat the system. I found these two things to be certain; first, you can’t beat the system. It isn’t designed for you to win. Secondly, I refused to allow my circumstance to become my “situation.” I made a mistake, one of many I have made in my life. Prison was my wake up call, but it does not have to be yours.
Ladies take heed, this is a warning. Let me dedicate this one to all my sisters out there, struggling to make a dollar — you can make it legally! Baby girl, get back in your lane. Change the game up, or trust me, you might get “chained-up” and I don’t mean that figuratively speaking.
Life behind bars is not easy. In most cases, incarcerated black women leave behind children, husbands, and extended families. The stress of such a fate can be catastrophic. I recall how degraded I felt when I first entered the Georgia prison system. They say that prison is supposed to rehabilitate you, but I beg to differ. What I witnessed was a system designed to deflate you, to pull down your morals, and to bring your self-esteem to an all-time low.
Once you step foot on the compound, you are no longer referred to by your legal given name — you become a government number, one of the many, I might add. I still have vivid nightmares of the prison guard yelling in my ear, “Inmate Such and Such…get against the wall.”
I made two promises to myself the day I entered the system. One was to never return, at least not in prison garb, and the other was to reach out to any female I saw going down the wrong path.
I know you are saying “Look Mo, you can’t save the world.” Of course, I have to concede I can’t. Although you would still have to stand corrected. Maybe I can’t save the whole world, but I can surely make a difference in it, one woman at a time, starting with you.
Prison doesn’t have to be the final result. You can avoid prison by doing this one simple thing: elevate your mind. Lou Rawls said it best: “ A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” We have to be able to elevate to the next level, but the only way to do this is by preparing ourselves through education.
There is so much division among our race and inner society. It is time to end the “divide and conquer theory.” Let’s uplift one another, educate one another, and empower one another! Maybe I can’t save us all, but I can damn sure try. We must turn our thoughts and dreams into actions. It may not be easy, but neither is doing time. I beg you all to accept my challenge. Remember, dreams are just mere thoughts put in motion.
I know it is hard out there, but serving time is a lot harder. Now that I am once again amongst the Land of the Free, there is no way I am going back. Anytime I think about prison, I am reminded of a song from back in the day: “Aint no sunshine when she’s gone.” I don’t know about you, but I love me some sunshine, and I love me some freedom, even more.