An Incarceration Primer: Always Lessons To Be Learned

Cheryl Ward

An Incarceration Primer: Always Lessons To Be Learned


This is my teaching guide to share that prison, for women, is NOT what you’ve seen on TV. I’ve never watched an episode of “Orange Is the New Black” but, prior to that show capturing the interests of many, the portrayal of prison on television and in movies, added to the factor of FEAR!!!

But listen to this—when you arrive in prison you find out that the others there are part of the human race, they are somebody’s children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers or neighbors.

Incarceration, the state of being confined in prison; imprisonment.

How do you become incarcerated?

One is found guilty of being a participant of a crime which warrants confinement.

One is the spouse of a person who has been found guilty of being a participant of a crime which warrants confinement—therefore you might have been found guilty by association

Being incarcerated can bring on many unsettling feelings.

Fear, caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous or a threat that is likely to cause pain. Shock, a sudden upsetting event or experience. Devastation, great destruction or damage. Horror, an intense feeling of shock, or disgust.

You have every right to feel those feelings and more, if you’ve never experienced incarceration you are about to enter into unknown territory. While you may have known someone who was incarcerated, the LIVE/PERSONAL experience is something which will affect your life forever. It also touches the lives of children, parents, siblings, relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

But here’s the good news.

Incarceration is a community, I call it a World Inside the World. The effect incarceration will have on you, is ALL up to you.  For me, the reality of incarceration is to come out better than you were when you went in!!! You’re going to be away from family, friends and responsibilities. Take the time to do something for yourself. My suggestion, since you’ll still have control of your mind and your mindset, is to learn something new and do it EVERYDAY!!!

Of course, if you’re able, you’ll work—no doubt, doing a job you’d NEVER do otherwise. I’ve seen women who have two master’s degrees be given jobs cleaning toilets. One learns to do their given job because this is a place where who and what you were on the outside really has no bearing because we’re ALL here for something the courts decided was wrong. So, here are a few things you might do while you’re away—by yourself.

Get to know yourself, let go of things that are baggage, then learn to BE GRATEFUL and FORGIVE yourself and others.

Write your children, family members and friends, those who encouraged you. Those you’ve been meaning to say thank you to.

Learn new words and use them. Become an authority on a subject you’re already familiar with or one you’re always been curious about. Start keeping a journal, this will help with the frustration you will surely experience.

Walk, run, stretch, take up yoga— just exercise.

Find your creative side. Learn how to knit, crochet, or make cards or paper! Write a book or screenplay. Learn to draw, paint, or sculpt.

Read books, magazines and newspapers. Teach a class, talk to others, encourage them, or learn another language or two.

Add to this list as you see fit. My final thought for you is this one.

Cry, if you must, this is a sad situation. But don’t cry long, utilize your MEMORIES and use time and energy to do something positive—EVERYDAY.

Cheryl Ward, 61, is a full-time caregiver to her aging mother who provided care and sustenance to her young son while Cheryl served nearly 18 years of a federal sentence on drug conspiracy charges.

  • porsha
    Posted at 15:00h, 12 October

    I love this

    • Cheryl Ward
      Posted at 20:21h, 12 October

      Thank you Porsha…appreciate that…

  • Antoinette Carter
    Posted at 18:32h, 12 October

    You have such a positive spirit. There are many who need to hear this!

    • Cheryl Ward
      Posted at 20:38h, 12 October

      Antoinette Carter…thank you so much for your words of encouragement & inspiration…you KNOW I’ve been a FAN of yours since I met you….your voice is MUCH NEEDED ALSO!!! 🙂

  • Davena
    Posted at 19:05h, 12 October

    I love this woman, I’ll never forget her.

    • Cheryl Ward
      Posted at 20:39h, 12 October

      Love you also Davena…thank you so much for your kind words…

  • Kim wilson
    Posted at 20:03h, 12 October

    I think this is amazing because it really lets u know there is hope inside those walls and that we grow a real since if family and we help one another

    • Cheryl Ward
      Posted at 21:27h, 08 November

      Thank you Kim Wilson….thank you so much….

  • Amber Bear
    Posted at 06:29h, 13 October

    Thanks..your such an amazing person.I’m glad we where able to cross path in our lifetime.

    • Cheryl Ward
      Posted at 21:28h, 08 November

      Amber Bear…thank you so much for your kind words…I am blessed to have met you also…..

  • Angela
    Posted at 18:13h, 13 October

    This was awesome Cheryl. For a moment prison sounded like the perfect place to get away, have some me time and get your life together. It’s funny how in the “free” world we still have all of these opportunities but won’t take advantage of them until we are forced to do so. Cheryl, you are an amazing woman chock full of wisdom and positivity, and knowing you has helped me to be more grateful and appreciative of the simple things. Keep doing what you’re doing because you enhance the lives of everyone you come in contact with. Great article !

    • Cheryl Ward
      Posted at 21:29h, 08 November

      Angela…so APPRECIATIVE of your words…THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR CARING….

  • Melvin Brisco
    Posted at 02:14h, 14 October

    One of the most insightful and giving people I have ever encountered. Definately a gift to mankind.

    • Cheryl Ward
      Posted at 21:31h, 08 November

      Melvin Brisco…thank you for such kind words…it has been a blessing in my life to have you as a friend since Locke….THANK YOU…

  • Michelle Luna
    Posted at 17:16h, 17 October

    Very true, very true.. I have been down the pah and could relate. I have nothing but love for you ms. Ward. I am so blessed to have met you. You are beautiful and You made a positive difference in my life. Aloha.

  • Alva White
    Posted at 18:52h, 17 October

    God knew you would pass the test Cheryl and that you would share your testimony and be a becon of light to other women who have been and still are in that situation!! You have ALWAYS been a kind hearted person!! Cheryl continue to do the work of God which he has put in your hands the torch of LIFE for women after and during incarceration for you to spread his encouraging words!! God Bless You with caregjving for your mom i am doing the same and it’s well worth every minute of caregivng!!?PROUD OF YOU CHERYL#takinglemonsandmakinglemonade#sweet

  • Phyllis Hardy
    Posted at 22:56h, 17 October

    This is my friend, what an awesome truth given by you. good advice for anyone going into the belly of the beast. love you. you helped me and I pray I was able to help you my friend. always.