Anniversary of Freedom

“I email them so they can see the world through my eyes.”

  • Faye Jacobs

It’s four months since our last conversation. We sit in my car in the parking lot at the car dealership as there’s no available spot inside for us to talk. We high-five to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of her freedom. Faye’s new second dog, Mercy, is asleep on the passenger side floor.

Faye continues...

 This summer I kept my two grandnephews for a two-week visit. It was supposed to be a month! But I decided that was too long. One is two years old and the other six. I had no idea about having kids! I had no clue of the extent of it. 

 They are my brother’s grandkids. I wanted to give my niece, their mother, a break. I drove by myself to Arkansas and picked them up. I had never met them before. They are adorable. We did lots of stuff, including an indoor water resort. All these things in life I missed out on - making every opportunity count. But it was exhausting at times.

How did your parents do with those boys?

 (Smiles) They were ready to see them go! The two-year-old was still being potty trained! 

What else do you reflect on about your life, Faye? Maybe things you missed out on or missing your friends who are still in prison?

 Yes, those friends are very dear to me. 

How do you keep up with them now?

 There are actually twenty-one women I email with. Arkansas has a system that allows this. If your family sends you money in prison you can purchase an MP3 player. I’ll send an email and they can plug it into a kiosk located in the library and read it. I send twenty-one separate emails. I downloaded the Access Corrections app so they email back. But, of course, it all has to be scanned for security purposes so no one is planning an escape or cursing or passing third-party messages. 

Third-party messages?

 Like I can’t tell someone to tell someone else that I miss them. It’s very petty. My words can only be meant to one person. I cannot ask about another inmate in the facility. But after a person like me is out for six months I can have video visits with a person still on the inside. I have a monthly video visit with one lady I call my little sister. She also has a life sentence. It costs five dollars per visit.  

 So anyway, I email to keep them encouraged, to see the world through my eyes, my perspective. I send pictures of how I am doing - how my transformation is happening, even if I am upset or scared - because they may be out one day too.  

 One of my babies is named Amy. She’s twenty-nine but she got locked up at sixteen.  She killed her father. She was sneaking and doing drugs. She mistook him for someone else. She got a sixty-five-year sentence. Fifty years to the door. I mean will they ever change the law? It’s unconstitutional! Such a smart girl. She can go to college in prison because she doesn’t have a life sentence like I did. Her mother remarried. Amy’s an only child and she has her mom’s support.    

 Amy works as the chaplain’s clerk. 

She is expressing herself in prison. Accomplishing things.

 Yes! But a lot of girls are doing life in prison on a revolving door! In other words, they go in and then go out and then back in twelve or thirteen times. Literally recycle themselves back in because of drugs and alcohol. They keep making parole violations like dirty urine tests, absconding, missing appointments. I ask: Why do you keep doing that to yourself? I say if you follow the rules of the land, you will not go back. You have to be determined. If you really want to get a job and go to school, you can. It’s all a myth to say you can’t make it out here. It’s hard, but there is support and resources. Like I said, I tell them that if I can find a job anybody can! 

 You should start preparing to get out long before you get out. It’s your choice! Ask yourself - am I a human being or a number?  

How about managing loneliness? Learning to live by yourself on the outside?

 My dog Bella helps me so much. She’s my psychiatrist!   

 The hardest time for me was my first six months in Texas. Real bad loneliness. I felt like I didn’t exist to people - even some of my own family members turned their backs while I was locked away. They weren’t there for me like they could have been. I don’t blame them. They were getting their own lives in order. I had a bad label of murder. I gradually had to crawl out of my shell, let people get to know me before they passed judgment. 

What are your girlfriends who’ve been released doing now?

 When I go back to Arkansas to visit, there’s a gal I did fourteen years with. I call her my aunt. She owns a cosmetology business. She does my hair. She trained for it in prison. I talk to her every week.

 When Shellian Danner, the leader of the Prodigal Daughters in prison got out, she was evangelized and is now a preacher. You can look her up on YouTube. God has kept her. She gets invited everywhere to speak after forty-six years in prison. She has a perfect institutional record. She was a huge success in there. But she got out and flunked her driver’s test five times. Can you believe that? But she’s got it now. She did her crime. She killed a man when she was twenty-three and working as a prostitute at a truck stop. She stabbed the guy - tussling. I don’t know if it was because he didn’t pay her. He died days later. And now she’s leading revival events. Three days long. Her parole officer gives her a long leash. Churches pay her thousands of dollars to preach and sing. She lives with her daughter who she left when she was three years old. 

 Another good friend in Texas is a drug counselor. She counseled in prison too. Another girl who spent eighteen years is prison is married and has a little boy. My best friend, Tiffany, is in college to learn to draw blood. Phlebotomist. She wants me to do it, but I’m scared of needles and stuff. She encouraged me to face my fears but that job is not me! 

Faye shows me a video on her phone of a reunion she had with ex-inmates in Arkansas. They are dancing, whooping it up, doing a gospel rap. Joy!

 We served a total of 108 years. It kinda throws away the idea of what prisoners look like - all beat up like Hollywood drama. Our pasts don’t dictate the future. I mean God didn’t bring me this far to leave me behind. TV dramatizes prison but it’s not always the case. I am a prime example. I am not what people expect.    

I learned to surround myself with people who want what I want. I loved living at Journey House. I tell people - do not isolate yourself. Do not become idle.

 And remember to give back. Give some money or your time or your skills back to Journey House after you move out!

The Drive Home: