Leaving Prison: A WNPR Series
Part Three: A Train To Virginia
Getting out of prison can be hard, and it can be easier when you've got support. But sometimes what's needed more than support...is a change.
In the third in a three part series, WNPR's Jeff Cohen is there when a former inmate does what she says she has to do to stay out of prison -- she packs up her things, gets on a train, and leaves.
It's Tuesday, and April Harrison is at Hartford's Union station with her life in her luggage. She got out of prison less than a week ago after a nearly year-long jail bid that she got after she stabbed her boyfriend in the groin. Since her release, Harrison has spent a few days with her family -- cooking, partying, calling into radio stations to thank her friends for their love and support. And three boxes of chocolate caramel-colored hair dye later, her gray roots are gone.
Cohen: How was your weekend?
Harrison: I haven't slept. My kids, between the grandkids and my kids they drove me out of my mind. And my mother. My dad.
Now, after just a few short days at home, she leaving -- on a 12-hour, one-way train trip to Virginia, where her oldest daughter lives. She's got three bags of luggage that she thought she could check -- but she can't. She's got $46 dollars and some snacks. And she's leaving nothing but family behind.
Cohen: So you're going now, are you going in your mind for good?
Harrison: Yeah. In my mind for good, yeah, absolutely. I can't stay back here. There's just no way, there's just -- I can't. Because I'll be right back up there.
When she says up there, she means prison.
Harrison: I can't. It's time now. My kids are grown, they got their own children, they got their own lives, so I gotta do me.
Cohen: You think it's going to be tempting to want to come back?
Harrison: Absolutely. Because I'm going to miss my kids and my grandkids.
Cohen: What do you do to avoid that?
Harrison: Hopefully be working. Absolutely.
Harrison is at the train station with Denise Holloman, her case worker from the non-profit Community Partners in Action. Also there is Deb Neves, her long-time friend. Harrison goes to the ticket counter and checks in.
Harrison: Now I've never taken the train before.
Train Guy: Why not?
Harrison: I just never taken the train. I never left Connecticut before.
That's not entirely true. She's used to go to the package store in Massachusetts on Sundays. She's been to New Jersey. It's just that she's never lived outside of Connecticut before. Deb Neves says that the change will be good.
Neves: Everything being new and nothing familiar might be a good thing for her. Too much familiarity is a problem for April.
Harrison: Yeah, because I go right back to what's familiar.
Neves: So, everything new -- it's going to be a good change.
(TRAIN LEAVING, DEB TALKS)
I got an email a couple weeks ago from Harrison. She got a part-time job in a diner five days after she got to Virginia. But Neves, her friend, says she lost that job when the owner decided to make the place take out only and laid everyone off. So now, Harrison is back to looking for work, looking for her own place to live, and looking for a new start.
For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.