Your Pretty Darling is Calling You

“But when the officer spoke it changed everything.”

  • Faye Jacobs

Faye and I return to the same little office for our next conversation about two months later

One crazy thing I’ve wondered about is how you got a driver’s license right after getting out?

 In prison I had a tablet that my attorneys gave me that had the driver’s test on it and so I studied it beforehand. Actually, I started driving when I was eight years old. We lived in Little Rock. I was always big for my age. I didn’t even need to sit on a pillow. I got my license twenty-nine days after release.   

 But it was super intimidating. Driving with both of my feet. So, so nervous. I didn’t want to get on the freeway. So much technology on the cars! Why do they have those gadgets? But I really need the backup camera for my boo-boos, my blind spots and stuff. I actually have to have it. 

I have some questions that are kind of weird. You seem to be doing great, Faye. Do you feel it too?

 I feel like I am doing great. But I still have a few bad days. 

Are you any less afraid of being alone or is it still the same?

That’s still the same.   

 I still feel tossed out in the world like a tiny ant. Hundreds of thousands of people and I’m just trying to maneuver, trying to dodge people. I see them, but they can’t see me. I’m not real. I am so accustomed to living in a tight cement box. But out here there are no walls to bump into. I am trying to dodge every little thing. But people in my life keep grabbing me and saying I need to face this or this. Try this or that.  

In prison somebody was always telling you what to do, not asking you questions or helping you think for yourself. Right?

 I don’t need a bedtime! But I need to be told things in the right way. I still need help to a certain extent like guidance to not give out my Social Security Number. 

In prison were things ever delivered in a nice way?

 Sometimes, but mostly it’s harsh. But I like soft and kind. For example, last weekend I went to Gulf Shore, Alabama to attend a National Innocence Network Conference. I got to go to the beach and see white sand. Oh my God - so beautiful. On the way back I was in a rental car with two friends who were former inmates. I was afraid to fly. In Hampton, Alabama we encountered a huge storm, wind blowing our vehicle on a bridge! It was unthinkable. 

 We sat there with other cars. I was shook up. I’d never seen anything like that. You don’t see things like that in prison. The girl that was driving was going too fast and scaring me. It was raining. I thought she could lose control. “Slow down. I’ll drive. I am careful and cautious.” She refused and so I climbed over and laid down across the backseat. In about fifteen minutes she yelled get up, get up, put your seatbelt on, the police are behind us! I said, “The police!!” I panicked. I was shaking. I had my hand on the door. I got so scared as I was trying to put my belt on. Shaking and dealing with my seatbelt. Policeman said you are going 88 in a 70-mph zone. But… the officer was so nice. I mean his demeanor and the way he talked really kind - how are you doing? I was looking right at him and he was so calm and nice! I thought - is he going to take me away?

That’s right. You have that old script inside you about a policeman approaching you and taking you away.

 So, is he going to take me away? Or he’s going to start shooting. But when he spoke it changed everything. I just stared at him. He changed everything. I know all cops are not like that, but he was an older gentleman and he changed everything. 

Was that your first interface with a police officer since you got out of prison?

 No. I had gotten a bad check for $1000.00 that this man told me to put in the bank and I did, but it was no good. So, I had to make a police report. But that was much different. It turned out okay. 

That brings up an interesting point. You also have a way of speaking and interfacing with people that has a calming effect. You respond to people in a way that makes them feel safe. I know COs have all different types of demeanors, but as far as I can tell you have kept such a positive attitude. Somehow you did not let your heart get “locked up.”

 I inherited that attitude from my parents. It was instilled in me. I took it with me to prison. You don’t judge and make fun of people. But I was so young when I went to prison. I hung with some girls who weren’t nice and I got known by the company I kept. I hung around negative people who hampered my spirit. I want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt and bring them up to my level.

Did you experience that happening in prison - people changing, being influenced by being negatively treated?

 Oh, yes. I also have been angry and disappointed. I get away by myself. I learned to shut up and not dish it out. 

That was a survival skill you used in prison. You didn’t allow people to change you.

 Being in prison with life without parole you have a target on your back -  there’s that murderer. So, I was treated differently than someone in there for hot checks. That label.

Is murder the worst label you could have in prison?

 No. The worst is sex offender. Raping little kids. 

How do you think people on the outside who have never been in prison and maybe don’t know very much about it should think about people who have served their time and are now out? Naive people. How do you cultivate a viable relationship and broaden their understanding?

 The first thing is communication. Ask questions the way you do. How are you feeling? How was your day? Helps me to open up. Coming out, a lot of us have trust issues especially people like me who were wrongly accused.

Just to pause there a minute… is there an example?

 I am very observant of the motives of everyone I meet. Maybe I am developing this more since I’ve been out. I feel cautious about certain people. I can feel their spirit. An intuition if their intentions aren’t right. If they have an agenda. 

Have you felt that with people who know your history? Have people tried to take advantage of you?

 I have come into contact with that on my job. Not this job but previous ones. Their motive is that I am going to come into some money. They say let me give you my number. I can sense if it is genuine concern. Are you going to sue? For how much? I say I am not thinking about that.

Would you say that you can trust most people?


What about trust level in prison - between the women?

 In prison trust is earned. 


 It’s like you and me mentally support each other. Regular friendship. We keep each other’s business within ourselves. 

Can we talk a bit more about Mrs. Curry, the severely mentally ill women you connected to?


Was she like a mother to you?

 No. Just the opposite. I mothered her. Like I told you last time she taught me Scrabble. When I first got to know her, she was like a precious little baby. She was my baby. I babied her. I keep her finger and toenails cut.  She wouldn’t allow other staff to do things for her. It was only me. I cleaned her. 

What did Mrs. Curry look like?

 She was an older white lady with white hair. All bent over. Brilliant. IQ very high. I never met anyone so smart. An amazing lady. She taught me to eat bread with sliced cheese and mayonnaise. You gotta try it. My nickname for her was My Pretty Darling. The staff would say, “Faye, your Pretty Darling is calling you. She wants you to come down.” “Okay. I am on my way”. When she passed away, she didn’t have any family so they burned her body. I don’t know where they buried her - a prison cemetery. I really wanted her to go away nice. 

She is one of the primary loves of your life.

 Yes. I treasure the Scrabble game she gave me.   

 Oh, there’s something else! I want to be sure and tell you about my singing in prison with the Prodigal Daughters like I talked about before. The leader, Shirley, who I told you truly was my spiritual mother, is getting out after 44 years! The governor commuted her sentence. I’m going to Arkansas to see her. She committed her crime at 23 and she is 68 years old. The whole prison is in an uproar, crying - bittersweet. She’s an ordained minister. She got ordination in prison.

Now you can be an advisor and confidant to her on the outside.

 I am looking forward to that. (Smiles). I always say to her, “Mom, you are so prideful,” and she’d say, “Yes, I am!” She always told me, “I am gonna help you come out of your shyness, Faye. You have a wonderful voice. You need to sing. Just sing.” She pushed me and pushed me. She is also a great speaker. Why, I just performed at a Midwest Innocence Project fundraiser. There were people donating $10,00.00[AP1]!  I couldn’t believe it! Mind blowing. So many people came up and hugged me - gave me cards to contact them. I was so emotional.   

To be the center of attention and having people so generous!

 Seven of us released through Midwest Innocence were there. I was the only female.

Speaking of singing and testifying… have you found a church yet?

 Not yet. I’ve been visiting different churches. One has brought me clothes and utensils. They invested in me but I haven’t felt led to join it.

 When I first got out of prison, during those months before I came here, I went to a traditional Christian-based halfway house in Texas called Sanctify Hope which was close to my mom and brother who lived together in a one-bedroom apartment. I needed guidance and help, but the focus at that place was on people with drug problems. I don’t have that problem. Not me.

    After sixty-five days there I flew back to KC with my attorney. I’d never been on a plane. I was so afraid, but I wanted to be here where the Midwest Innocence students and interns could help me. When I arrived all the staff from Journey to New Life and the Journey House were there to greet me. A big welcome. When I moved into Journey House, Sister Rose talked with me, helped me. There are no words to describe the impact that had, her listening to me. Everybody was and still is truly invested in my life. My caseworker goes the extra mile. I had thought I could do all this on my own, but I wasn’t ready.

And now you have this job you’re obviously so skilled at.

 I’ve had lots of practice because of my intake office job in prison. 

What about racial discrimination? Did you experience it in prison?

 Oh, yes.


 Different jobs like secretary jobs - clerk jobs. If you were black, you simply couldn’t get those jobs. The unspoken classification system was very racist. They simply would not put us in certain levels of jobs. We could only be porters where we just cooked and cleaned. 

But weren’t you an intake clerk? A job with lots of responsibility.

 That’s the job I did but I was labeled “intake porter.” Like a cleaner and stocker. But I was definitely doing a clerk job. All those twenty-six years I never got a clerk designation. 

How ironic that you operate the reception here at this huge car business.

 Right. I’ve had a lot of practice!

Did you develop personal relationships with the CO’s you worked with?

 You weren’t allowed to, but I did. I developed strong real relationships with my supervisors. They could get fired for fraternizing, it was against policy, but they did it anyway. I knew their spouses, and pictures when their kids graduated or had birthdays. I saw the world through their eyes. I had some good relationships with chaplains, social workers, and people in every department. 

You bring that out in people.

 Yeah, but the assistant warden had this horrible, arrogant persona—“Lady, you’re just a murderer.”

Way back during your trial were there any black members on your jury?

 No. I had only eleven jurors and my public pretender said I was okay with only eleven. 

Did anybody on the outside say this is wrong?

 My dad campaigned and did his own investigation - door-to-door asking, “Who committed this crime? I want to show you my daughter is innocent. I know my child.” But that was his word against theirs. He visited me every week until he died in 2001.   

 I want to return the support and take care of my parents. I have been so long without my mother that it’s a pleasure just to give her her meds.

The Drive Home: