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Stories of Hope

The following stories are about women in prison, and those who have been recently released. All of these women have been involved in AIM's programs. These women's lives have often been marked by trauma, abuse, addiction and other struggles. Yet their stories  are also ones of hope, courage and perseverance. In a country where some 60% of inmates return to prison within three years of their release, these women offer a powerful portrait of strength in the face of immense odds.

Everyone has a story to tell. In listening to the lives of these women, one finds the humble bravery involved in the everyday struggles of women in Alabama's prison system.

These stories were recorded and produced by Ariel Goodman, an intern from Oberlin College. Any questions or comments can be sent to aegoodma@oberlin.edu

Carolyn

Carolyn will never forget the day when a prison guard told her that her two daughters and mother were killed in a house fire. She will also never forget the day, approximately one year later, after she was released from prison, when she found out that it wasn’t true.   After being released from her one-year sentence in Alabama’s maximum-security prison—Tutwiler prison for women—AIM helped Carolyn set up a facebook account. To her surprise, within a few days she had received friend requests from her two now grown up daughters. The 37-year-old Mother of three, who now is busy raising her 3-year-old son AJ, was able to re unite with her family, who she is now in contact with almost every day. Carolyn says it is in waking up everyday next to her baby boy, and the knowledge that the people of AIM love, and believe in her, that keep her from spiraling back into addiction.

Carolyn will never forget the day when a prison guard told her that her Mother two daughters and were killed in a house fire. She will also never forget the day, approximately one year later, after she was released from prison, when she found out that it wasn’t true.

After being released from her one-year sentence in Alabama’s maximum-security prison—Tutwiler prison for women—AIM helped Carolyn set up a Facebook account. To her surprise, within a few days she had received friend requests from her two now grown up daughters. The 37-year-old Mother of three, who now is busy raising her 3-year-old son AJ, was able to re unite with her family, who she is now in contact with almost every day. Carolyn says it is in waking up everyday next to her baby boy, and the knowledge that the people of AIM love, and believe in her, that keep her from spiraling back into addiction.

Listen to her story below:

 

Cynthia

Before taking the classes of AIM, Cynthia had always been told that she was a failure. In a life that was haunted by a rape which she suffered at the age of four, and the loss of her Mother at the age of nineteen, Cynthia turned to drugs to make her “feel whole again.” 

It was not until her third trip to Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for women, when she took the classes offered by AIM that she found the positive encouragement she needed to begin down the road of recovery, and forgiveness. In her words, “Through AIM I realized that I had made a lot of mistakes, but I was not a mistake”

Listen to her story below:

 

  Pamela

 

After Pamela was released from a 10 year prison sentence at Tutwiler Prison for Women, she says it was thanks to AIM that she was able to move on with her life. In her words, "they were a light in a dark place."

The mother of two, who is in her mid-50's,  explains how her most of her early life was spent on the run from abusive men. Twice she was forced to uproot her life and move to another state in order to escape her abusers. With a voice steeped in years of experience, she gently says, "Over the years I've learned that some women can't leave their abusers, but it wasn't that way for me... it was like lifting a dark cloud" 

Listen to her story below:

 

Felicia

Felicia, describes herself as a singer, a poet, and a sister. Now, as she serves a 15 year prison sentence on drug related charges, she says that by living each day with a newfound spirituality, she has found a way to be free even behind bars.

In her words, AIM has taught her that “I’ve been to prison, but I don’t have to be a prisoner when I leave."

Listen to her story below:



 

Deborah

When Deborah wound up in the emergency room at age 53 she was told that she wouldn't live past the age of 60. Now at 61, she lives in a faith-based women's treatment center, where she has almost completed her recovery from a drug addiction that she was plagued with in her later life.

Through the help of AIM's Project Reconnect, she hopes to continue her life after leaving Lovelady. Her biggest joy is her son, who she received a visit from soon after entering rehab. When asked to describe how it felt to see him after not being in touch for 4 years she said, "its like walking outside your door to see an airplane with a giant bow attached to it"

Listen to her story below:

 

 

Irene

Irene and I sit in the main room of the prison where she has served many years awaiting parole on the life sentence she was charged with when she was 19 years old. “I want to be able to just look back and thank god that I made it, through everything.” says the petite blond woman with a shy smile

Growing up in a strict catholic family, Irene rebelled at a young age, and moved out of the house at 15.  Before turning18, Irene lived through two severely abusive relationships, a pregnancy, and a need for money that wound up in her working for an escort service. Now, she hopes to be released from prison soon, and return to society with a newfound confidence and love for herself. After living a life that made her consider suicide multiple times, in her words, “I love that I didn’t give up, that I didn’t waste this opportunity. I just love that I can wake up and look in the mirror and say, ‘you know what, I love you’”



 

Penelope

Prison “is no place for humans to live” 52 year old Penelope says as we sit in a small chapel in her rehab center. After her second trip to Tutwiler prison, she tries to share her story with all the younger women who come in to the rehab center where she lives. By doing this, she hopes it will help them find a new path, as she has done.

After her involvement with AIM’s Project Reconnect, which she says was “one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Penelope hopes to reconnect with her family again after completing rehabilitation.

Listen to her story below: