|How Do I Start All Over Again? Effective Methods For A New Start|
|By Dalonika McDonald, Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Parole Division|
Several years ago in our Women R Worth It class, a group of women on parole were sitting around in a circle. Linda, one of the women who was recently released from prison started to clear her throat to speak. It was obvious she was trying to hold back her tears. I remember looking at her thinking, how shocked I was about her desire to dialogue with the group. In all the weeks we had been in class, she had spoke very little. As she began to talk, a piece of her hair fell in her face, which she shyly pushed back into the ponytail. She was frail, and her clothing looked worn. Linda's clothing defiantly did not accent her. My, thoughts were interrupted by her question. "How am I suppose to feed my kids? How am I suppose to start over?"
Linda went on to say how her son came to her that morning, "when are things going to get better?". Linda had just completed six years of a nine year prison sentence; for possession of a controlled substance. She went on to say, "I did not know what to tell my son as he looked at me with hurtful eyes. Everywhere I turned for state assistance, they rejected me. I couldn't get assistance for food, housing or employment. With my felony conviction no one want to hire me. I don't know what to do. I'm trying to keep from going back to my old ways." Her voice tailored off into a whisper as she could not hold in her tears any longer.
At that moment another woman-Ms. Sherry, who is on parole, began to speak, "I am going through the same thing and would just like prayer," as she broke out in loud sobs. The next twenty minutes was spent by several of the ladies stating, in agreement they all need help. It's hard trying to establish yourself back into society after serving time in prison. Before the last lady finished speaking there was not a dry eye in the room.
I shared the story of the lady's on parole, to share must of us do not have to start all over from this type of blunder. This does not mean we all could not use a few tips to get us on the right road to success.
My Own Story
Over twenty years ago, I had to make a decision about my new direction in life. With a baby; a high school diploma, and no financial support, there was no other option but to move forward with a vengeance! There were life traumas, that had to be placed behind me. A murdered friend, which her unbelievable untimely death made national news. A recent divorce by my parents and a personal relationship full of immature love. All of these critical circumstances caused me to become more of a strategic planner for a better future. I refused to be part of any negative statics. My eye sight was set on achieving my goal to complete my criminal justice degree. It was difficult trying to remain on course. Enduring my lean years were challenging.
"It is okay," I had to say to myself many of times; "remember, you're working towards a life changing goal." No brand new cars, no new apparel, and no eating out. My budget was formatted to my plan. There were times I became frustrated, due to not seeing my degree in a nice frame as quick as I thought it should come. During the many struggles, and down times for me; my mother was my chief cheerleader-she still is today. As I was walking across the stage to receive my criminal justice degree, I had no idea all the doors which would open up for me due to hanging in and completing my plan. During the course of my life, I have had to re-invent myself at various times in my life professionally and personally.
How Do I Re-Position Myself Now?
What we shared with the women coming out of prison, were resourses. Cognitive intervention training, to change the way they saw themselves. Teamed our ladies up with mentors and people who they could be accountable to.
"Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives." -Willa A. Foster
Other articles by McDonald
Corrections.com author Dalonika McDonald is a former Lieutenant for the Nebraska Penal System. She was promoted by The Texas Department of Criminal Justice to supervise staff to promote security first, and then provide resource services and programs to ex-offenders and their families. The scope of McDonald's professional experience encompasses more than inmate relations, she is a highly accomplished criminal justice and public relations specialist poised for her role as a community liaison, instrumentally contributed to recruitment initiatives, training and development and strategic building of relationships with corporate leaders, as an active member of many local and national organizations including: National Association of Women Business Owners, American Correctional Association, Executive Women in Texas Government.
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