Character Building begins when we are children.
John, back row, second kid from the right!!
TJ and John
Becoming a prisoner’s Wife has allowed me to identify who I am as a law abiding Citizen.
So often we hear about inmates being bulldozed: convicted when they are actually innocent and unlawfully sentenced or punished for a crime. As a society, we witness people make excuses more than we see them take responsibility for their actions. As a result, we rarely take the time to research how our tax dollars are being spent when it comes to incarceration. Instead, we take the easy route and say, "Lock them all up and throw away the key," speaking from a place of fear that is perpetuated by the media, political parties and law makers. Once that fear sets in, we start caring less about our children’s education system, the streets we drive on, the bridges we cross, the water we drink, and our own futures.
Until that same reality hits home for us. Perspectives change when it’s our loved one who’s being crucified and needs mercy; who needs a chance to rehabilitate and society’s compassion.
Being the wife of an inmate has become more than a commitment or a vow for me—it’s become a way to survive a God-given world that votes more to destroy the future than build a productive one. By trying to use a broken system instead of fixing it, California is in a no-win situation. Or can we win? The answer to that question depends on us facing our responsibilities by researching the law. The two real questions are: How can I help make this a better place and who’s responsible?
I discovered through my own marital experiences that even as the wife of a prisoner, I have some liability too. First, by not knowing the state laws and exercising my right to vote. Then once I started voting, by not educating myself enough to know what I was voting for.
I took a long look at my situation and came face to face with what I was up against. I discovered that criminals weren’t my real antagonists; a failing system was. A system that was blinding us and prompting us to give in to greed, power and hatred for one another in a dysfunctional community.
It was my own will to change that allowed me to recognize that there are more people being incarcerated that can change and become productive citizens, than there are dangerous criminals that cannot change.
As the wife of a prisoner, I looked at my husband and it was like looking into a mirror. I could identify with him and those that were born in an environment that taught us, from birth, to believe that we would never be more than what we saw outside our living room windows. We were told that our communities were the ghettos, but who defines that? Is the ghetto a dark place full of worthless people? Or is it an ugly label we placed on low-income citizens to make them believe they are less than? Is it a locality of folks who are of no value? Or does it simply mean that they have to work harder to achieve? However, in spite of the contributing factors the mission before us today is to get my husband home.
In 1990 John was sentenced to 1st degree murder for a crime he didn't personally commit. In 1993 his sentence was reduced from 25 years to life to 15 years to life on appeal due to an unfair trial. After 20 years in prison John is being held unjustly by continuously being denied parole for no valid reason.
If you put a junior high school student who cannot read basic books in a classroom full of advantaged students who can read at a collegiate level, what do you think will happen? However, if you put that same child in the same situation but give them the necessary support and show a love that builds self- confidence, that child is able to believe beyond what they can see. My point is this: a person’s environment does not determine who they are.
The previous situation is no different than the one for an uneducated man from the ghetto, standing in a courtroom full of unfamiliar faces and foreign terminology, being asked to defend himself. And although it doesn’t make him guilty, it can, and does, permit him to be sentenced to 15-years-to-life due to intimidation.
Whether this man is guilty or innocent, his ignorance doesn’t mean he’ll never be a good, law-abiding citizen once he’s served his debt to society. It simply means that due to his disadvantages, fighting for a fair trial was almost impossible. A person who can change is a person who has understood & identified that there first was a problem, and even more importantly, one who wants to rectify it.
I just described to you both my husband, John (arrested at 19 years of age) & myself. We are going on 17 years of marriage in the system. Together, raised in the same neighborhood, we are surviving sufferers of a failing system. John and I are still strong, existing and living through faith, knowing that one day John will be granted a parole date. At that time, we’ll be together as a family, the way we once dreamed when we were innocent children living without the proper guidance. Now as two mature adults, we fight for John’s release & second chance to live in society.
In support of my husband John Windham, I have self-published a book based on our story as a means to raise money for his attorney. I have since turned that story into a stage play. Under Order My Life Productions, we live by the old saying,"Your mess is your message." As we "Touch one soul at a time," John and I stand together in this storm knowing that one day, we will find justice in a system that can only be fixed if we all stand up and fight for the day when our state laws will be carried out justly for all.
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