All About Me…
#1 My name is Heather Lavelle. I’m serving a life sentence at SCI Muncy, Pennsylvania’s maximum security prison for women. This is my 14th year being incarcerated. I always want to write, but get stuck wondering what to write about. So today I decided to write about what I know and what I care about – prison, the reform we so desperately need, and stories about my life and the women I’m doing time with.
#2 Yesterday I got fired. I’m 49 years old and for the first time in my life I got fired from a job. My friends tell me not to say I got fired, because I didn’t do anything wrong. My job was dissolved. For the past 5 years I’ve been running groups for the Reentry Services Department. I loved my job. I’m good at my job. No, I’m very good at my job. Women tell me all the time how much the groups help them. Especially “Beyond Anger.” They know they need to make real changes in themselves before they leave prison or they’ll be right back. Our anger is different from men’s anger. And who better to talk with them about better ways of handling their anger than someone else who has suffered devastating consequences as a result of misplaced rage? I’ve made a lot of changes since I’ve been in prison and I have a real passion for sharing what I’ve learned with the ladies in my community. I’m an optimistic person, so I’m looking at this as – what’s next? Every experience I’ve had since I’ve been at Muncy helps shape the next opportunity. Today I’m hopeful that whatever comes will come as a teacher and guide for the next leg of my journey.
#3 Today started with me receiving a hopeful message from a friend. A group of influential people are meeting on February 7th to draft a revised bill to offer parole eligibility for lifers. The first draft of the bill got legislators talking about why Pennsylvania is the only state to incarcerate every person convicted of 1st or 2nd degree murder for the rest of their natural lives. It also got them discussing how long it takes to rehabilitate someone and at what point continuing to incarcerate them is simply damaging their chances of ever successfully reintegrating into society. Incarcerating someone after they’re rehabilitated is essentially warehousing them. And as one lawmaker pointed out during a visit to SCI Muncy in 2017 – why should PA taxpayers pay to warehouse human beings? My friend, a juvenile lifer, was released after serving almost 40 years in prison. It didn’t take 40 years to rehabilitate her. So what’s the right number? 15 years? 20 years? Almost two years out my friend is still struggling with housing and employment, but she’s doing much better than she was when she was first released. A strong support system and a solid reentry plan are essential for success. I’m hopeful that the meeting of the minds on Feb. 7th will bring about a piece of legislation that can become law and finally bring some much needed compassion into our criminal justice system.
“Working Toward Redemption”