So, before you get caught up in this post, I want to clear a few things up. Yes, I am interning with a program inside of the jail. I am interning for my social work degree, not for criminal justice or anything of that nature. The program I interned with is called Resolana, which is a part of Volunteers of America Texas. This program is a trauma-informed, gender specific, program that follows the 12 steps (like AA, etc.) This means we work with women, who have experienced trauma, and have a substance use disorder or any other kind of negative behavior. We help them both inside the jail as well as when they get released! I have so enjoyed my time here and am so sad to leave this Friday! Although I hate having to leave, I am leaving with so much from these ladies that I am honored to get to share all that I’ve learned wherever my journey may take me.
What I Learned Interning in the County Jail
Everyone has a story and you should always take the time to hear it. It’s so easy to say, and agree, that everyone has a story. It’s another thing to take the time to listen and understand. These ladies have some of the most powerful stories I have ever heard. Stories of domestic violence, losing their children, being molested by their fathers, being abused by family members, being sold by their parents, being forced to use drugs at the age of 4 years old, etc. Stories that I thought only existed in the movies, but it’s the real lives of these women. Yet they are strong, beautiful, determined, and world changers. That is why it’s worth listening to the stories that hide deep in the hearts of each and every person we encounter.
This leads me to the next thing I learned, never judge someone by their circumstances. You never know how someone got to where they are, but I can promise you it didn’t happen over night. Things happened that lead them to where they are today. That goes for inmates as well. As you can see in my first point, these women didn’t grow up in these healthy, encouraging, life giving, or “moral” situations. And if you’re honest with yourself, you can probably admit that if you had the same story, you would probably be in their shoes as well.
We have more in common with people we believe are so different from us. If I’m being honest, I never thought I would compare myself, my life, or my circumstances to that of an inmate. Yet, I find myself leaving the jail everyday contemplating the idea that they are just like me, except they’re in jail and I’m not. They struggle with insecurity and so do I. They’ve made mistakes that haunt them, just like me. They hurt, feel lonely, and desperately long for connection…you guessed it…just. like. me. So, next time you begin to judge, critic, or put yourself higher (or lower) than someone else, take a step back and notice the things you have in common. I promise it will change your perspective.
Never take for granted what you have because someone is wishing they had it. These ladies light up every time we come into the pod (where they live/where we have class) and it’s not always because they are excited to see us. They are excited to see real clothes. They are excited to hear our stories from the night before. They are excited to have someone who actually wants to talk with them. They are excited to hear that we found something out about their court dates, etc. They have their basic needs met, but that’s it. We, or at least I, take for granted all the extra that I have in my life. A phone, a house with my decorations in it, clothes that I never even wear, a husband to come home to each night, whatever I want to eat that night, etc. The list goes on and on, but being in the jail has made me so much more grateful for the things I have and the people I have in my life.
I could talk about this internship, these ladies, and this experience FOREVER, but I’ll spare you. This post is just a handful of the things I’ve learned throughout my time at the County Jail. Here is a video to help you see and understand a little more about what Resolana is all about! I am so saddened to leave these ladies, but more than excited to share their stories and the impact they made on my life for years to come! If you have any other questions, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll answer them ASAP!