From Under a Bridge, to Under a Roof
Amanda Cassidy (Reentry Advocacy Fellow) wrote the following piece as her story of self during the Organizer Training Fellowship offered by Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM). To contact Amanda, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It must have been 104 degrees outside, late August in South Texas always has sweltering heat and humidity. I was dripping sweat in clothes that hadn’t been washed in days, maybe even weeks. As I sat there on that soiled mattress under the bridge I looked around and found myself surrounded by trash, dirty and broken syringes. I remember thinking maybe the next one will make it all go away, maybe I won’t ever have to feel again. I was empty and broken. On very rare occasions I could feel, deep within me, a desperation that my head convinced me was just shame. I was so tired, not just physically but mentally and spiritually. I was arrested for the last time that night. I told the officers thank you.
It would take me eight weeks in county jail before I would finally quit using drugs to change the way I felt. They told me I was going back to prison. No calls, no visits, no mail. No one came to see me anymore. They were tired too. I went and sat in a circle of women who had been where I had been and were desperate for something different. A woman came from outside the jail and shared her story with us. I knew her and she had changed so much. I wanted what she had. Two weeks later I went to prison for the last time.
I did my time differently. Instead of focusing on the outside world, on who I could manipulate to make my time comfortable, I focused on me. I dreamed of all the things I could accomplish if I truly did change my people, places and things. I made a list of things I would do when I got out and prayed over it constantly. I knew the only way I could change was if I got on His path instead of my own.
I wanted to help others like me. My first step in doing that was completing peer specialist training. During this course I would learn about advocacy, organizing and lobbying. In that training a spark was lit. The desperation became a gift. It would set me on a path to a career I never dreamed possible. I would go on to meet a man who would take me under his wing and guide me into one conversation after another. Into one job and then a career. Today I get to be the voice of the men and women like myself who aren’t yet able to speak for themselves. I speak up for them in conversations with a large variety of organizations. Today I get to share my story and help elevate others like myself along the way.
~ Amanda Cassidy, Reentry Advocacy Fellow