Damaris R. Diaz 

Damaris R. Diaz

My name is Damaris and I would love to share some of my experiences in prison from the year 2001 to 2011 when I was released to a halfway house. Life did take many unexpected turns, but there is always grace for the fool.

 

I arrived at FCI Tallahassee back in 2002 to serve a sentence of 188 months. I went through a period of adjustment to the system. I realized that I had to surrender in order to be able to serve such a long sentence with the hopes of an early release. I guess that is every inmate’s dream-to be released ahead of time.

 

After the transition, I began to comply with the requirements of programming. I was enrolled in the Parenting Class with Mrs. Finch. During the first four weeks of class, I wanted to withdraw. We focused a lot on the impact of incarceration on our children. Those were the most difficult weeks in the class. It was very hard for me to accept responsibility for the pain I caused my family, especially my son, who at that time was four years old. Mrs. Finch was very gentle, but at the same time firm in presenting the facts to us in statistics. We were also able to assess our individual situations in the class. Through self-forgiveness and helpful tools, the instructor gave us, I overcame those difficult times.

 

Another part of the parenting class that was very helpful was the self-image session. Because of the intense drug abuse and self-destructive behavior, I had a very negative self-image. I learned so 

many things about myself, and tools that I was able to apply as the years passed. The feedback from Ms. Finch and my classmates showed me things that I did not know about myself. In this session I learned to forgive myself for all I did prior to my incarceration.

 

After successfully completing the Parenting Program (89 hours), I decided that I wanted to give back to my community inside the four walls. I assisted Ms. Finch for many years with Spanish Interpretation for the population. As I continued to serve others, my confidence level began to increase while staying humble at the same time.

 

After serving more than ten years in prison, I was released to a half-way house back in October 2011. Not even after a month of my release, I was employed by this great credit repair company. The transition from prison to the half-way house was not easy. Many times I wanted to “go back to prison” to finish my sentence, but I did not want to disappoint my son. There were several reasons why I did not want to complete my time at the half-way house, but I kept persevering until I was eligible for home confinement. On February 2012, I was able to rent a room at my boss’ house where I felt safe and with privacy again. I decided to prepare a place I could call “home.” By the summer 2012, my son was visiting me. It was so awkward to spend time with him as a teenager. You see, I left my son when he was four years old. We had a great time over the summer. We could not go places since I was in home confinement, but he was so patient and understanding of my situation. He was able to work during the summer with me and earn some money. He then went back to Puerto Rico to finish high school. During his stay, I was able to apply what I had learned in the Parenting Class with Ms. Finch, first as a student and then as a teacher’s aide.

 

On December 2012, I was able to attend my son’s high school graduation in Puerto Rico. Since then he has relocated with me. The Parenting class helped me assess the damage I had caused my child, and at the same time provided me with vital tools in order to build a new relationship with him. I learned to not make up for the past nor allow him to neither manipulate me nor make excuses because “I was incarcerated.” If it had not been for what Ms. Finch taught me, I do not think I would have been so successful in my relationship with him.

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