Catching Up with a Past Work Release Resident
Pioneer’s community reentry programs serve as a bridge from incarceration to life in the community. We contract with the Department of Corrections to operate work release sites in the state of Washington. Specialized programs are available to serve residents with unique needs including females and those with mental health issues or developmental disabilities.
The Ahtanum View Work Release is a 60-bed, co-ed facility housing 52 males and 8 females in Yakima, Washington. Programs include substance use disorder treatment, family and personal counseling, and anger management counseling.
The Ahtanum View director, James McLane, recently spoke with a former resident at the work release to hear how she was doing and what her experience was like at the work release.
JM: What path led to you to incarceration?
KA: Even though I was raised in a nice looking house on pretty land, my father was an alcoholic and pretty abusive. There was a lot of emotional and physical damage that went on inside the house that deeply affected me. I think experiencing abuse when you are growing up sets a pattern of what to expect for yourself. I followed in my mom’s footsteps and got involved in abusive male relationships that caused low self-esteem.
My mother made a decision to stay with my father, despite his abuse, because she did not want to be on welfare and wanted to keep all the children in what she felt was a good home. At the time she was making the decision that she felt was the best for the family but it served to be a bad example of what you should accept in your life.
When I was 14 years old I ran away from home. Immediately, I got into a relationship with an abusive boyfriend. I guess it was familiar behavior that I was used to but it led to drug and alcohol abuse starting at an early age.
JM: Where did you hear about Pioneer Human Services?
KA: I first heard about Pioneer from my community corrections officer when I was incarcerated. I begged to be sent to one of the work release programs when I was released because I heard Pioneer gave people an opportunity and taught the skills for self-improvement. Your low self-esteem and missing feelings of self-worth really build-up when you are incarcerated. It’s difficult to think positive or hope for better things when you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Addiction is a disease and hard way to live, and adding incarceration to the mix can make it devastating. So, any services a person can get when they are released are really needed and appreciated.
JM: What has kept you on the straight and narrow this time?
KA: After arriving at Ahtanum View Work Release in 2015, I was encouraged and given the opportunity to look for a job. I also participated in chemical dependency treatment and onsite AA meetings to help in my recovery.
They trusted me to go on job searches and motivated me. After looking around I was hired at a local restaurant. I am proud to say that I am still employed with the same restaurant and have never missed one scheduled day. Work helps to introduce you back into the community and builds up your self-esteem. That is important as a person coming back to live in an area after jail or prison has usually lost all their feelings of being part of society.
JM: What did Ahtanum View Work Release provide that helped you in your transition?
KA: Structure. I believe that structure builds stability in your life. I became disciplined when I was at the work release. I had a productive and scheduled routine with support from staff. While I lived at Ahtanun View I had to follow rules and learn to be responsible for my time and myself, I wasn’t just thrown back into the world. I developed a productive routine that included seeking and obtaining work, and I maintained a schedule that helped me with time management that every working person needs.
My time at Ahtanum View prepared me for living on my own and transitioning back into a life back in society. I really felt the staff was supportive and cared enough to want to see everyone succeed. They were always there to offer any guidance and kind of acted like our mentors while we were transitioning back into the world. It is amazing how much a few kind words can do for you when you are in need. And being trusted goes a long way in motivating you as an adult to become successful.
JM: How do you feel about yourself today?
KA: I feel good. Now, I have self-confidence and I learned to love myself. So many years of low self-esteem and abuse created a wall that I needed to learn to climb over and then build myself back up.
Forgiveness was another important thing I learned when I finally let go of the guilt of losing my mother while I was incarcerated. Shame and guilt can really destroy you. I know that she is proud of me now and sees that I am doing good. That fills me with love and a great feeling.