Good, good, good, how are you today?
I’m well, I’m great, I’m healthy. OK, anything else? And even if you complain, nobody’s listening.
That’s true. That’s a lot. But I’m happy you listened. And today I and so are all of our great freedom followers. So everyone today we have on this panel and again, I’m keeping her name. I don’t want you to forget it when we get off this call. And she is an awesome woman to end this month on with all the amazing women that we’ve had. She is just fills my heart any time I think about the work she’s doing for women in the South. So also she passed a very important bill that we will get into later on in this conversation. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Sure. My name is Pamela. When I am an alien from right here in the big A where we make history and turn things blue, shook it up this presidential election today. So I’m very proud of my home state from for that, I am the founder of Restore Her. I’m a co-founder of the formerly incarcerated graduate’s next network. I created the Dignity Leadership Alliance. I wear a lot of hats. I do a lot of things. Not going to bore you with all the titles and all that I do. But the most important thing that you need to know about me is that I don’t take no for an answer. And when it comes to things that are important to me that I have a passion about, and that’s about my people and the treatment of my people, I go hard in the paint and I don’t stop till I get it done.
Ok, talk about it. OK, so let’s talk about what restor like you said, you’re the founder of Risk for her. Tell us what that means.
Restore Her is a policy advocacy reentry, nonprofit, nonprofit organization. What we do is we address the social determinants of criminalization. And for people that don’t understand what that means, that means that we just basically fight for reproductive justice, dignity and leadership of justice impacted women that have been formerly incarcerated, that are currently incarcerated. They have convictions. But I have never seen, you know, the inside of a sale and women that are affected by trauma. So we work with these ladies to enhance their lives and then we partner with them to change laws and to, you know, just improve conditions for us population of women here in the south.
Ok, so you do all this great work for these women and you put yourself out there to be open, to really tell your story and help these women tell their story and function in the society that we live in and right now. So can you tell us a little bit about your story? Have you ever been incarcerated?
Yes, ma’am. So like I said, I’m from I’m from Atlanta, which means I’m from the south. So I come from what you call a typical Southern black family, which means no money, low income and uneducated. I was the first person out of my family to graduate high school and to continue on graduate college and to own a business, become an entrepreneur. That was something that I had always aspired to do as a as a kid because I understood the dynamics of my generation. And I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to be known for that. So having accomplished all that, I was a nurse. I have I was a registered nurse. I have over fifteen years of professional experience. I attended Spelman. So basically, you know, I set the bar for myself and accomplish those things. So I was like at the peak of my life building on top of the world, like I, you know, everything I aspire for I had done. And then it all came crashing down because again, I am the first person in my family to own a business. So people that came from where I came from didn’t own a business. So when I was having issues with my business, I didn’t have anyone that I could go to to get help. So I did what I had known to do all my life, which was figure it out myself. And unfortunately, what I figured out was not correct. And it landed me with a seventy eight month federal prison sentence for white collar crime. And during my incarceration, I was also pregnant and I was shackled when I would be transported in a.
Out of the facility, back and forth to court, shackling caused me to fall, I feel I didn’t receive medical care. I ended up miscarrying my baby. Oh, when I was placed in solitary confinement. On top of that, the whole process of the miscarriage was like what I felt there was no check me out, make sure I was OK. It was scooped me up, put me on the van and keep it moving in the court. You know, I get back. Still no medical treatment. Nobody looks at me. I send in medical requests because I’m now I’m starting to spot I’m starting to bleed. You know, I know that I’m having issues for over two weeks. They went unanswered. Finally, I get an answer and they tell me that that’s normal with pregnancy. So I respond back and kind of throw my titles at them, you know, and say, no, ma’am, this is not normal. You know, my better my background, my medical background. Is women’s health anything normal about this? So at that point, they brought me to medical, the woman that was the director, as well as the doctor that was contracting with the facility, we had the same colleagues. So out of respect, they were just straight up honest with me and they just blatantly told me this facility was made for men we didn’t expect to have. Women definitely didn’t expect to have a pregnant woman. There’s nothing that we can do for you. We have nothing here. So the only thing that they could do for me was to send a request to the marshals, because where I was at this time, I had not been sentenced or convicted.
So I was being held at a holding facility that contracted with the feds, was a private prison. And so they couldn’t move without the approval of the US Marshals. So they had to send a request and wait for approval to take me. Well, they did request to take me to the E.R. The turnaround time for the approval was four weeks. Yes. So we’re talking about nearly eight weeks now. So when I get to the E.R., they’re looking at us like we got fifty heads because they like, no, this is eight weeks ago that you see anymore. You know, she needs an obstetrician or parasitologist. So they were like, we got to send in another request. So it was another four weeks. We had to wait. I saw an obstetrician, but all she could say was that she needed an ultrasound to check the status of my baby. So that was another request. Another four weeks when I got the ultrasound, it was done by a medical technician, not a radiologist. So they couldn’t read it or tell me anything. So that was another appointment. So in that last four weeks of waiting is when I miscarried. So the way that the VA facility was made, we had like a large common area and then we had sales every night at ten o’clock, we will be locked into the sales. There were no cabinets, buttons or anything like that. So, you know, on this officer came around and checked, you know, you were just locked in.
Not a normal thing. Is that normally how it is? Like there’s no way you can contact them or call them and give me some help or anything? You just in there, no matter what you just went through?
Right. So at this facility, there was not I’m not sure about other places because once I finally got to a federal facility, it was very open. You know, I could go know, do whatever I needed to do at this holding place. That’s how it was set up. So then the water fountain was spouting brown water. So they were supposed to bring us in fresh water every day. Most days they didn’t because it depend on the officer if they wanted to do it in that this particular day, I had drink anything all day. And so I was. So once they locked us in, I started cramping and I knew it was probably because I was dehydrated. So I started drinking water out of a saint. I think that’s connected to a toilet, which to give you an idea of how desperate I am right now to get some fluids in me, because otherwise it was like I you know, that’s just like drinking the brown water at the water fountain right now is urgent. So I’m concerned about the health of my baby. So I’m drinking the water cramps got worse. I decided to lay down and go to sleep and hope when I woke up, we would have fresh water, ice, whatever, inside the pot. Well, I got waking up because now my cramps had turned into contractions. So I got back up. I’m at the sink again, trying to drink as much as I could.
I feel a warm gush between my legs, but there are no lights in the sail. There’s nothing. So it’s just like you can’t see anything. And so. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t good, so I just lay back down, you know, squeeze my legs together, hoping that someone would come around soon to check on us. That was a young lady in the room with me. You know, the pain got kind of intense and I started Samona. So I woke her up and she asked me what was going on. So I told her I remember her going to the crack of the door and screaming out to the other ladies that there was something wrong with me and my baby. And we needed to get help. And I could hear all the ladies beating on the door, screaming, doing everything to try to get anybody to come. When somebody finally came, it was after 2:00 in the morning. And when they opened the door, that goosh that I felt it was good and it was blue all over their entire cell. So, of course, now I’m afraid I’m scared. I’m worried about not only my baby’s life, my life, what they were doing. They were debating if they should call the marshals or if they should call nine one one. I literally had to beg and plead with them to just go ahead and call me.
I want to get me right. When I get to the hospital, the marshals meet me at the door and automatically shackle me to the bed by my ankles, by my ankle and my arm. That’s how I endured the remainder of my miscarriage. And on top of it, I had two male officers in between my legs. No, refused to leave the room or even just, you know, my nurse asked them what they just stepped to the side, to another part of the world. They said, no, that was very embarrassing, very dehumanizing. Finally, when I stopped bleeding enough that they could do an ultrasound, they told me that I had passed my baby and it wasn’t in the bed with me. So they were asking officers, where is the linen that she bled on? And they were like, oh, we threw it in the trash. And I just remember a nurse being very upset like her baby was there. You threw a baby in the trash. I just kept hearing her say that. And even as many times as I told my story, when I say that, you know, just and how I felt then to think that a part of me, something that was my baby was just thrown in the trash in the way that they said that they threw it in the trash was like, that’s how they really feel about my trash.
And then right after that, they put me in solitary confinement. So now in solitary, I’m just replaying that moment over and over and over and over in my head. And all I could think about is the shame and the guilt, you know, that I feel because I felt responsible for my baby being thrown in the trash because I had put myself in that predicament. There was no counseling. There was no nothing. You know, I was just pretty much on my own. I stayed in solitary for almost eight months before I was finally sentenced and designated to a federal facility and was taken there. The only thing that really kept me going besides the grace of God is that I had a 14 and a 16 year old at home and I didn’t have support. So they were literally at home alone taking care of themselves. So on top of everything I was going through, I was in there every day praying and hoping that nobody would come by the house and find out that they’re there alone. And if nothing else for them, I knew I had to keep it together and, you know, make through my situation. But and then coming home, you know, trying to get some kind of resolve for all the injustice that I endured when I was away, I was told repeatedly,
Sorry for you. Before you move there, let’s take a step back. One, I do know this is going to be a continuing interview. We may run a little late, so I hope you all stick with us. This is some serious and important information that we’re getting here tonight. So young and bear with us. So let’s take a step back. So before you got out, when you got out of solitary, what happened? Like, did you go back to your cell after you moved to the new facility? How long were you at that facility before you got released? And where were your emotions and your feelings place? Because there there’s so much injustice. But having faith, you still got to deal with those emotions. Where did that go? Where did you find the strength to move forward there?
All right. So when I came out of solitary, I was. Sentenced and designated, so coming out of solitary, they took me straight to the airport, put me on what they call Con Air, and flew me to Florida, which is where I started serving my time at home in Florida. I was at a camp there, so it was very open. So like I say, no locked doors, no sales, no none of that. You know, I could move freely, do whatever I want it to do. You know, they’re just not leave the grounds. I was there for two years or so and then I was taken to Alderson, West Virginia, that that was like that’s the first federal prison for four women like Billie Holiday and, you know, those type of people that incarcerated there has a lot of history. I was taken there until I was released home. And what else did you ask me about? Oh, my feelings. How did I. OK, so growing up, my mother had a drug addiction. My mother was in and out of prison. So I pretty much raised myself and I had a younger brother for years. My mom lost everything we had and we were kind of like homeless during that time. I lost my virginity to a rake. And that’s where I kind of learn how to just cut off, you know, myself from things. And it’s always come in handy throughout my life. So we’re dealing with the situation about my baby. Like, even when, you know, the sexual assault happened, I didn’t have time to focus on what had just happened to me because I had my brother somewhere waiting on me and I had to figure out where we were going to sleep at night.
So that’s how I deal with this. So that’s how I dealt with it in there. It was like, I don’t have time to sit in what just happened with me, with my baby because I got two other babies out there, you know, waiting on a phone call from me room, you know, that type of thing. And then when I’m inside, it’s like you don’t have time to think about that because you got to exist in here. You got to make it up out of here. You got to get back home. So there’s always something else that I feel like is a bigger priority than sitting in, you know, what I actually had going on. And so that’s how I do it. I just compartmentalize it to the side and even come home. I’ve never you know, once I got home, it was about where I’m going to live and a job. You know, it was just so is always of things going on that you don’t have time to go back and dwell on anything. And it wasn’t until one day I was doing an interview like I’m doing now, and somebody asks me, you know, how did I feel about what happened to our baby? And that’s when I’ve never taken the time to even do anything other than when I talk about it. And I think about this. That’s the most time or thought I give into it because there was always something else or I always put something else in front of it to keep me going. And that focus on
What I did not think. That is very important to talk about because then you kind of releasing those things that was put down. So I really do appreciate you sharing that with us tonight. So when you got home, this is going to roll into how we saw her came along. Yes. Oh, when you got home and your boys were there, did did they have any resentment towards you that made it hard for you to move forward or did you feel as though you failed them in a way that will make it hard to move forward? Are you automatically like, no. What? I got to just get a job, get it right, and then we can handle that.
No, I automatically feel like a failure. The first day to day arrested me and took me away. I felt like a failure because remember, you know, my dream was to change the whole dynamics of my upbringing. And now here I was leaving my kids like my mom had left me something I had promised myself as a kid I would never do to my kids. And I’ll do it wasn’t intentional. I still did it. So, yes, I felt like a failure. I still feel that that’s something it doesn’t go away. I carry that with me. I carry that with me. I carry the shame and guilt of failing my sons. They’re both doing great. They’re doing well. But I always think to myself they could have been doing so much better had I been here with them and you know what I’m saying? So it just it never goes away. I have to just tell myself or remind myself, like I have friends that tell me, you know, I’ve been here with my kids, never went anywhere. And they’re not doing as well as your kids. So you can’t, you know, keep dwelling on that. So that’s what I kind of tell myself when I get to feeling like that. As far as them having a resentment, they never voiced anything to me. I try to get them to because I knew that they had to feel away, but they were always very protective of me. And I felt like even to this day when, like my younger son does speak, he does do my work with me and he’ll speak. And it’s like every time he speaks out or something new, because a lot of things they didn’t tell me because they didn’t want me to feel, you know, bad or worse or that I really felt. But I always try to encourage them to just tell me, because what I don’t want for them is for them to just push things that I like. I do.
That is wonderful. It sounds like you have some great boys. And in my opinion, I think that that’s a great upbringing. Even if you want there, they sing something to you that they need to keep on going with that. So I applaud you for that. OK, so now we got that out of the way and we know your history and know a little bit more about you. How did that experience bring you to restore her?
So restore her came about because when I got home and I was going to speak to different people about trying to get some resolve for what I had went through part, I want it resolved. But I also wanted to forget it and just move on with my life and let it be a nightmare. But the more I try to get resolved, the more I was told there was nothing that I could do. People were telling me that, you know, it was beyond statute of limitations. And, you know that Georgia had been working on shackling laws for over ten years and could never get anywhere with it. And so all of the nose is really kind of pissed me off. And I was like, OK, I don’t do no. Well, I mean, and so so I was like, OK, y’all can’t do anything. And that’s what I would tell them not to let me know. And then I could do just say you couldn’t do anything. Right. That ain’t my that’s
Not I don’t know.
So I started my organization. I put out a petition change that or it got over one hundred thousand signatures and less than that at the time. Senator Booker, Kamala Harris. And we’re now Vice President Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren had a bill called the Dignity for Incarcerated Women. It was a federal bill. And he saw the petition and he came on and he made a statement on my petition. He got in touch with change. Dog wanted to meet me and brought me to DC to work on that legislation with him. So that is how my work began. Of course, that bill didn’t go anywhere because they knew they were going to be on the next presidential ticket and they didn’t want to give them away. And so that was my first lesson in politics. They put politics before the people. So people need to know that politics comes before the people. So they’re worried about a win instead of worrying about the importance of this legislation so that building can go anywhere. But that didn’t stop me. I came I ended up meeting Jessica Jackson and Van Jones at the time their organization was cut. Fifty. They were working with Booker also. So I kind of partner with them. I came back home, met with people that I have been working on the legislation here, the band I work. It didn’t work and I went from there. And so the biggest thing that I think that was the turning point for me to get my bill passed was when the sheriffs stood up to testify in a committee here to say that they didn’t shackle women. I was able to stand up and say, yes, you do.
And so up until this point, I don’t think they ever had anyone that was there to speak their story and speak their truth, because the legislators looked at me and they were like, well, you know, when is was this where did this happen? And they did it. And not only that, they have mobilized the women inside. And I have all of them email me their experience, right? Yes. So when I told them so, this was when I passed the bill was 12, 19. When this happened to me, it was thousand eight. And so I told the legislators this happened to me in two thousand eight. And I had a handful of emails that I dropped on the table. I said, but this is happening to all of these women now. So this is not an isolated thing, is 11 years is going on. And so I shut all the emails to them. I was like, read them, you know, and they were sitting there so they couldn’t they couldn’t deny that the sheriff was just there. It was that he could say. And I think that was what pushed it off the edge, the fact that I had lived and lived experience. And so that’s important for me in my narrative. You know, when I’m doing this work, people with the lived experience are the people that can inform these policies and make these changes that need to be made, because you can expect legislators or organizations that are not directly impacted to do these things because they don’t know they know where they are. They know what they think. But the best people to lead are the people who experienced it.
That’s right. I truly believe the one thing I’m really getting out of what you’re saying is if ain’t nobody gonna fight for, you got to fight for yourself. Well, I think that we all forget that at times, you know, and we get in a situation like, OK, that’s all right. And when we come back and it’s like, I should have said this or I should have done this versus taking that risk and being like I am more important for my future. I am more important than this person saying no to me, you know, especially when is so important as the work that’s going on. So my last question, because we’re going to definitely have to continue this interview some other time, but I do want to know how you have impacted a woman that you met and how they feel about what you’re doing right now.
So I have impacted women, so I have federal legislation. If you’re familiar with the first step at all of the language in the first step at written about women, I wrote that. So women in federal prison don’t have to go through what I went through any more than I passed the bill here in Georgia, HB three forty five that ban shackling and solitary confinement in Georgia. So they don’t go through it at my home. And then just yesterday we passed SB 105, which is about probation reform. So once it’s signed into law by Governor Camp, any person, if you’re sentenced to 30 years on probation, if you’ve been on probation three years, you haven’t gotten in trouble and you paid your restitution, you can get off no matter how much time you have on probation fines. And that’s very important because, you know, here in Georgia, you can vote if your off paper. So if you are on probation and parole, you can vote. So this means that when we pass when he strokes that pen, we have over fifty six thousand people that are eligible to get off probation. And that would be fifty six thousand people, new voters that can vote.
Oh, that is awesome.
And from what I understand it from Van Van told me the last time we checked, over thirty thousand women have been affected, impacted and not by the shackling legislation that I’ve done.
Wow. That I know that feel good like this poor girl.
I feel great because all I think about when I keep telling me, no, no, you can’t do that. And it is too late for that. And now I can tell them the hell you say,
Ok, I get all the their like when
You say I don’t you know, ain’t none of my women over thirty thousand of met women. I got to deal with it no more.
All right. You know, I’ve. I love. I can’t say that enough, you are just awesome woman and before I met you, I felt that way. You are really, really, really the person I’m happy I got to speak with for my last interview standing hour. But I will be talking to you again so we can go more in depth about restore her and the work that you’re doing for the South and some of the organization you work with to let everyone know what it’s really about. And also, if anybody who has been incarcerated and have experienced this can also kind of chime in and have some conversations as well with you. Do you have any final words that you would like to say?
We have another bill that we’re working on is called the Women’s Care Act. CARE is the acronym for Childbirth Alternatives, Resources and Education. So although we passed legislation and I’ve been a part of passing the Shackley legislation Georgia, South Carolina,
Connecticut, Kentucky, I’ve been busy right now. Alabama and North Carolina have the bill in session. Even though, you know, we’ve gotten everybody on board about the Shackley, they still are shackling the women. They still women in solitary. So what the Women’s Care Act does is it takes them out of the prison period. So this bill will if if you get it, if you go out and you get arrested and you can’t find out, you sit out three days, they have to give you a pregnancy test. If you test is positive, you automatically get to Bundall. No questions. And then when you go back to court, if you’re convicted and sentenced to serve time, you don’t come back to serve that time until 12 weeks after you have your baby. Wow. Yes. So I’m like, that’s the next step is to stop shackling them and putting them in solitary. The next step is to get them the hell out of there.
So we were able to we we passed the committee hearing. We passed rules. We made it to the we were making it to the House. We ran out of time, though, because the session ends on Wednesday. So next year we’ll pick up where we left off. So next year we’ll be celebrating that we don’t have any women, pregnant women in the prison.
Nice. Thank you so much for sharing and having well, we having you all here tonight and having you here. So we just thank you for inviting me.
I really appreciate this. Thank you for the opportunity to uplift the voices of my women and let people know that they’re out there. You know, this is Women’s History Month. They are part of women’s history as well.
Yes. Yes. So if y’all want to look around at w WWE w her that you s make sure you look her up. Thank you. Have a good night. Good night. More than.