The Process

We welcome back Lauren Johnson, a Conspire alum, who continues her Monday posts about her experiences being incarcerated, as well as her thoughts on social policy, drug laws and life in general. 

Six weeks after my son  was born, I signed for my sentence and was then sent to the prison in Dayton Texas – the Plane State unit. My aunt had just had back surgery and couldn’t make the drive to that unit because it was a 5 hour drive, almost every other transfer group was sent to Gatesville at that time.When she was finally able, my son was 5 months old. She came to see me and brought him and I held him again, with all of the fears of him not taking to me put to rest when he laid on my chest and went to sleep. My aunt told me he didn’t do that with just anyone and I held onto that and took comfort in it. I got my answer back from parole and a week after that visit I was sent to the SAF-P program facility in Burnet Texas. Everyone always tells horror stories about this place, but I was happy to go there because it meant I would get to see my son almost every weekend, and if I had that to look forward to I could get through anything that went on during the week.

SAF-P is a rehab inside the prison and I got a lot out of it and thought that the horror stories were unjustified. It is just like life, what you put into it is what you get out of it.  I took a voluntary Christian parenting class while I was there and every week they took down a prayer list to take  back to their church and have them pray over. Week after week, I prayed for my son’s father to get arrested so that he could stop running and start living and be a decent father. Two weeks before my release I walked out of the shower and looked up at the television in the dayroom only to see the photo of my son’s father next to a photo of our roommate on the news. My prayers had been answered. I was released to the half way house that is next door to the jail and received permission to visit him. He was sentenced to 90 days in the state jail and 5 years on probation. He was transferred to the state jail in town and on Mothers day 2005 I went to a lot of trouble to coordinate a visit. He met our son for the first time that day.

We still didn’t know at that time what , if any future we had together. We had never even officially been a couple but once he was released I had successfully done the requirements to be released to my fathers home and started working and we began to see each other and spend time together, sober. We began to plan a future together, moved in to a duplex within a few months and the following January got married.

I would love to tell you that this story has a happy ending. But as you know this is life and no one rides off into the sunset of happily ever after. Because life continues, and so does our story, We had a happy continuation for a while. Both becoming gainfully employed, adding two more children to our family, bought a house, and continued to move forward. I wish that the story didn’t include any relapses or recidivism, but it does.

I should probably mention that this was also not my first rehab. The first time that I went to prison I was placed in a modified version of SAF-P. It was voluntary and I stayed because I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it out.  So after five years of doing well and staying on track I relapsed and my husband followed and we began to feed off of each other. I could tell you a long detailed story but again mine is one of many. The details may change from person to person but the core issues are still the same. The disease of addiction tricks the mind, I believed that I could control it, and the core issue behind my relapse was pride and honesty. I knew that I needed to tell someone, but the shame of the fall was great and I kept telling myself I could fix it on my own. Since that was untrue It had to get worse before it got better.

Eventually I got pulled over and was charged with possession of a controlled substance. For the first time ever I was in a position to bond out of jail. I got clean and so did my husband but with my history, jail time was inevitable. I kept praying for a miracle thinking it would come in the form of probation. I tried to tell my lawyer that I had done well for a long time and hoped that would make a difference. Experience is the price of wisdom. My lawyer told me that the court saw it from a different perspective, that I just hadn’t been caught. So initially I didn’t see that I did get my miracle. I got the shortest prison sentence that I had ever received.

During the time that I was out on bond, I was clean and had started to clean up the mess that my relapse had left me with. We were blessed enough to have a married couple move in with us to help with our children while I was gone. When I went to Travis County Jail, I heard about the PRIDE program. My main reasons for signing up for it were to help make the time pass faster by staying in classes, and the hour long contact visit they offer once a month with my children. For me, the classes weren’t all new information.There is a cycle of information that is presented because everyone needs to start at the beginning and peel their own onion. I don’t think it makes it any less important though. For some women this is the first opportunity they have to think about their lives and learn things about themselves, and a first step to change. I want to say that this class can be life changing, although that doesn’t mean it is immediate.

I want the people looking from the outside in to know that change is a process. I don’t think that the success of the programs offered can be measured by the immediate success of the participants. Just because someone gets out and doesn’t change their life right away doesn’t mean that this part of their process was unsuccessful. I know for me that each step of the way has built on the step before it. I know a lot of programs get cut behind budget problems especially if the statistics don’t show results right away. I also know that women’s programs have a tendency to be the first on the chopping block. I hope that the people doing this important work don’t get discouraged by all of the red tape and I hope that through time we can remove the red tape and promote more programs facilitating a change that will impact future generations.

-Lauren Johnson

We’re still raising money for our new class in Maximum Security, set to start in October.  We’re 2/3 of the way there, with 10 days to go.  Please donate today!

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