Monday, September 22, 2014


            I could hear a muted cell phone buzzing as Trish and I walked down the hallway of the women’s after prison house where she lived.
“Is that your phone?” I asked her.
“It’s not my phone. You know I'm not allowed to have a phone,” she said. “It has to be yours.” 
             I dug through my purse trying to find it, but I knew I left my phone in the car. When we got in my car, I found the phone on the floor.
             “Trish, my phone is right here. Do you have a cell phone with you?”  She hung her head and sheepishly replied, “Yes, but only for the last three days. I needed to help my daughter register for school and since I could not leave the house, I needed to talk to her on the phone.” 
            My training to be a mentor for women who were released from prison and living in the Christian transitional program prepared me for constant lying and deflecting responsibility. Did I believe her?  My heart started racing not knowing what to do. Should I walk back in the house and report this rule infraction? What would the consequences be for Trish?
            She had broken a few of the house rules before and had her privileges taken away. I did not want her to get in trouble again. Trish had completed four and half months of the six-month program. She was the first woman I was assigned to mentor, and we hit it off right from the start. The program had strict rules because the women were coming directly from jail or prison, and a judge knew they could not live unsupervised yet.
             As her mentor, I was not supposed to tell her what to do. I was to encourage her in her relationship with God, pray for her, and help her make better decisions so she could live on her own. She was a new believer, having only accepted Christ while in prison. She was a sponge when it came to Spiritual things, learning to study the Bible, learning how to pray and how to trust God. Living in a house with six other women, we also talked about how to respond when she thought she was treated unfairly or she disagreed with the rules.
            We sat in my car, outside the house. What should I do? Should I walk back in and tell the supervisor or drive away? I said a quick prayer, then asked her, 
             “What do you think you should do?”  I could see the look of panic in her eyes. She was wondering what I was going to do. She started rambling, justifying her actions.

             “I’m really sorry. I know I should not have the phone, but I needed to talk to my daughter. I’ve only had the phone for three days. We can take it and give it back to my Mom right now. Can you drive me there? If you could drive me, we could meet her and I could give the phone back and I won’t have it any more.”
            That seemed like a good first step. We drove to a bank to meet her Mom. I’m not sure why I was feeling guilty. I looked around for a police officer inside the bank. What was I worried about? I had done nothing wrong and what Trish did was not illegal. There was no reason to be nervous. Relax.  I told myself. 
            On the drive back to the house, she nervously rambled about her daughter’s school, the confusing details and her frustration about not being able to be there for her daughter. I dropped her off at the house without saying any more about the cell phone. She thanked me and looked relieved as she stepped out of the car.
             Later, I thought of all the things I should have said to her. I didn’t think she understood how serious this was. Although, she was the one who told me three other women were kicked out of the program when they were caught with cell phones.  I never told her how wrong it was, how it was deceptive and how she lied. She lied to me when she said the buzzing was my phone, when she knew all along it was her own phone. I mentally kicked myself for allowing her to think I was okay with her breaking the rules, that what she did was not that bad, and that she made everything right by giving the phone back.
             The next week I called her, and said some of the things I should have said when we were in the car. She acknowledged she was wrong. She apologized again. I had a busy few weeks and did not meet with her again until three weeks later. 
            When I picked her up, she was noticeably troubled. Near tears, she wanted to get out of the house as fast as possible. I thought maybe she had argued with one of the other women. Maybe she had gotten in trouble and had another of her privileges taken away.
            We drove to a coffee shop, found a table outside and sat down. She was full to the brim with something heavy on her mind, and could not wait to spill it out on me.

“Robyn, I can’t do it anymore.” 

“What is that, Trish?”

“I can’t live with the guilt about having the cell phone. Nobody caught me, and it seemed I got away with it for the past three weeks, but I feel terrible. I prayed and asked God to forgive me, but I can’t sleep and I feel like I should tell the supervisor. I can’t stop feeling guilty and I think about it everyday.”

“Really?”  I asked surprised.

“That’s the Holy Spirit, Trish. That is a great sign. We know the Holy Spirit lives inside us when we are convicted of our sin. This is a great step in getting closer to God.”  I was pleased with this huge spiritual growth step.

Tears started flowing down her cheeks. 

“What is it?” I asked.

“You know the last women who were caught with cell phones were kicked out of the program, right?” I nodded. “So, I talked to my parole officer and told him the situation. He didn’t care that I had a cell phone. But he said, because this was my last chance, if I got kicked out of this program, he would put me in a one year inpatient drug rehab place and I wouldn’t get to see my daughters for a year.” Tears flooded out when she mentioned her girls.
            “I want to tell the supervisor, but I don’t want to go to a one year rehab and not get to see my girls.” She cried. “What do you think I should do?”

 (Click here for Part 2.)

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