Over the past week, I've been reflecting on my incarceration experience. In reality, it's never far from my heart or mind but certain events, such as attending a Criminal Justice Reform meeting this week, bring the memories closer to the surface.
Additionally, today is leap day.
The last day of my incarceration in the NH State Prison for Women was three leap years ago. The fact that my release date fell on March 1st of a leap year was a bit of a blow. It meant being detained one more day than I would have been any other year. Perhaps this sounds trivial but - to those who understand - it's an excruciating delay.
What added to the matter was the fact that prisoners are not generally released on weekends due to staffing issues. Since leap day that year fell on a Friday, it meant my release would be delayed until the following Monday - March 3rd - which equated to an additional three days than if it had not been a leap year.
As it turned out, some unusual circumstances allowed for my release to stay on track and special arrangements were made facilitate my leaving on Saturday, March 1st at 0001 hours. But that is different story.
To the point, I've not been a fan of leap year ever since.
Prison changed the way I interpret time. For example, you won't hear me say, "if only there were more hours in a day". If you think about it, for those enduring torture (which incarceration is), more hours in a day is an awful wish to make. I've taken to managing my allotted time better rather than wishing for more hours in a day.
You might hear me say, "I don't have enough time" or "I ran out of time" or "I wish I had more time to work on XYZ" but you will never hear me wish the days were longer or that time would slow down. The luxury of wishing such things is for those who are not suffering. No one in prison ever wished for more time - no one being tortured every wished for more hours in a day. Prison taught me that 24 hours in a day was quite enough and only the greedy wish for more.
So there's that.
And here we are, at Leap Day 2020. Tomorrow is March 1st. The anniversary of my release from prison. It's a reminder. Some people wonder why I don't simply move on - forget about it.
I will never forget about it. In truthfulness, I feel it is a sin I have not said more.
While I was prison, the following scripture (Isaiah 49:14-16) had a particular impact on me:
At the time, I was feeling particularly "forsaken" by God and the words, "thy walls are continually before me" leaped off the page. I felt at once understood, less alone, as if He was acknowledging the prison walls and those who were held behind them. I related to the sentiment, in ways I never imagined, especially the inability to forget.
Graven upon my heart are the lives of my sisters who I reluctantly left behind. Their prison walls still stand, continually before me, and I can never forget.
This is how Leap Day looks for me inside. Tomorrow, I wake to my freedom but carry the weight of the injustice that still exists. I cannot simply forget even if that would be more comfortable for the people around me. I move forward but I do not forget.
And I do not wish for more time but to use my time - and my freedom - to the very best of my ability and for the best of humanity.