My Time In Prison

Many people don’t know I spent 13 years working as a psychologist in a women’s prison.

During those years I worked tirelessly with women whose lives had been plagued with sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and crime. More than 50% of the women had been sexually assaulted as children, beaten by parents and partners, they’d turned to drugs, alcohol and bad relationships due to their low self-esteem and for some PTSD. They also committed crimes; some of the crimes they committed were violent and tragic. Even “victimless crimes” left children and families devastated by the loss of a mother or daughter. Some of the women got caught up in a bad relationship and while they weren’t directly involved in the crime they received decades long sentences for conspiracy. One of my former clients is still serving a thirty-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute meth. She was never caught with any drugs.

Every day as a psychologist behind bars I listened to tragic stories of childhood abuse, drug use, beatings, death and loss. Everyday I heard woman talk about how much they missed their children and how they wanted better for them. Everyday I struggled with the complexities and limitation of the prison system in rehabilitating the lives of those who broke society’s rules. I know I wasn’t alone. My co-workers too, people who wanted to give people a second chance, while also protecting the public, struggled with the complexities of human nature and the peculiar world of prison.

I met so many women from all walks of life in prison. Each had a unique personal story, a struggle, and choice they made that broke the social contract and led to her doing time. There are so many stories to tell and so many challenges that I faced as a psychologist striving to see the best in my client and feel the unconditional positive regard that founder of Humanistic Psychology, Carl Rogers, claimed was essential for helping a client heal.

davina-fletc-training
This is me fresh out of graduate school at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia July, 1996.

Being a prison shrink was also challenging because we were considered correctional staff first and I had to learn to balance the empathy of a psychologist with the boundaries required of a correctional officer. No easy feat.

There were times when I was even asked to pat search and handcuff my clients when it was my time to work a correctional post. This was a very weird experience. My clients, which I was really supposed to refer to as inmates, often remarked that I was the most considerate handcuffer. Weird, right? I was always polite with a “please cuff up,” and “thank you.” I know I drove a lot of lieutenants crazy.

Psychologists in prisons are often called “hug-a-thugs” and “inmate lovers.” While I didn’t care for that I understood. Staff members of all departments and years in the system got caught up with inmates and created dangerous circumstances for everyone. Some staff compromised themselves and the prison by bringing in drugs, weapons, cell-phones, etc. and some staff got caught up in sexual relationships with inmates.

In some cases staff were just as predatory as the inmates they guarded, for others their kindness/lack of boundaries was used against them. Either way, staff had a challenge to walk a line that is deeply challenging as evidenced by Stanley Milgram’s –Stanford Prison Study. A person working in the penal system must guard against losing their compassion and having it turned against them.

This is the subject of my first novel, Behind Barbed Eyes. Behind Barbed Eyes will be released next month.

Behind Barbed Eyes tells the interweaving stories of Dr. Victoria Thomas, an idealistic psychologist who believes everyone deserves a second chance and Bonnie Maldonado a convicted criminal who is incarcerated a third time for driving the getaway car in a bank robbery.

The book addresses the psychology of healing, forgiveness, compassion, self-love, healing from abuse, restorative justice, rehabilitation, spirituality and cultural and class issues. Issues, as you know, I’m committed to.

This is my third book to be published and my first novel. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the excitement of releasing a book and the nervousness of presenting a creative work that has marinated in my mind for many years.

Whether you read fiction or not, I hope you’ll consider reading Behind Barbed Eyes. I’ll let you know when the book comes out and I hope you’ll share in the excitement with me. I’ll keep you posted about readings and book events.

Thank you for being a part of the Courageous Heart tribe! Like Love Warriors Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Cesar Chavez, Thich Nhat Hahn let’s change the world with love.

My Weird Miracle

My Weird Miracle

Last month I was invited to speak to the National Association of Bar Executives at the American Bar Association Conference in San Francisco on the topic of LGBTQ Diversity.  I was a little harried when I arrived the night before because my flight was cancelled at the last minute and I had to change airports and arrival time. I checked into the Hilton, stopped by the gift shop for some chocolate around 7pm and debated whether to review my presentation before or after dinner.

I decided I would feel more enthused after dinner. So, I left my luggage and laptop bag in my room and ventured out for food. I stopped at an Indian restaurant that had photos of Bill Clinton with the owner. Apparently this was a favorite haunt of he and Hillary’s pre-White House. I enjoyed my meal and then returned to the hotel at 8:00 PM.

When I got back to my room my laptop bag was missing. I looked everywhere and found it nowhere. I remembered having it on the BART; surely I didn’t leave it there. The lobby, perhaps I’d left it upon check in, though I swear I’d taken it to the room.

I raced to the reception desk. “I think I may have left a laptop bag here about an hour ago.” I told the receptionist who phoned security. Security came and asked me to describe the bag. “Yes, we found a black bag with a computer. We’ll bring it up, “ he said. I sat and waited in the lobby for 15 minutes until they arrived with the bag. My heart sank when I saw that it wasn’t mine. I filed a report, and then made some tearful phone calls.

I believe in the power of prayer/focused positive energy to effect change.

I posted a request on FB for prayers that my laptop bag return to me. I believe in the power of prayer/ focused positive energy to effect change. I also got a return call from the Agape Prayer Line and asked for prayer.

I mentally retraced my steps. I asked the young man working in the gift shop if he’d remembered seeing my bag. He said, “Yes, you had it balanced atop your suitcase.”

“Thank you, “ I said, confirming that I indeed had it when I arrived and checked into my room. I remembered that someone was vacuuming in the room next to mine and I contacted security to give them the additional information. Then, I went back to my room and tried to manage my anxiety.

I’m a writer. Everything is on my laptop; screenplays, books I’m working on, presentations. I do back everything up on an external hard drive, but it had been at least 6 months since I’d done that. A lot can happen in six months. What was worse, is that I always keep a zip drive at home with my most recent drafts of my work, and it just so happened that I’d put the thumb drive in my bag because I’d printed copies of a screenplay I’m working on for my writer’s group. I was beginning to question my karma and clearly questioning what I’d been thinking to manifest such unfortunate circumstances.

I had to take a hard look at my thoughts.

Some good things were on my horizon that required me to stretch and come out of hiding. I realized that this opportunity for growth was triggering me. What better way to stay small than to lose my proverbial voice—my writing, books I’ve been working on for years?

I did some powerful work on myself, including calling my own coach to explore this possible karmic self-sabotage. I realized there was some grief that needed to be expressed.

Every time we grow and embrace something new, we let go of something else, even if it’s a lesser version of ourselves.

I had some tears to shed that had to with past losses, fear of change and losing control, which ultimately meant letting go and letting the Universe support me. I also had to surrender and trust that the Universe had a plan for me and that if I was meant to release my computer it would work out. At the same time, I kept holding the return of my computer in my mind. I worked to tap into the feeling tone of my computer coming back to me.

One of my friend’s texted me and told me she’d lost a whole draft of her book and had to re-write from scratch which she did and it’s now a widely successful book. Another friend contacted me and told me what I needed to do for my computer’s security and how to handle the situation with the hotel. She’d been through this before and said it was common.

I called my girlfriend and we talked and I shared with her some of the things that had been coming up for me that I hadn’t yet shared with her. We had a very rich conversation and while we were talking I heard a knock on the door.

At 11:30 PM I opened the door and the security guys were standing there with my laptop bag. I broke into tears of joy and thanked them. I was so relieved!

I looked inside. Everything was there, including my journal and the thumb drive.

“Have you taken any medication today?” They asked me.

I looked at them and laughed. “No,” I said, “Why do you ask?”

“Are you sure you weren’t in Tower 1?”

“No,” I said, and reviewed for them exactly where I’d gone in the hotel since I arrived. They told me they found my laptop on the 10th floor of Tower I. They looked at me perplexed.

I don’t know how my computer got there or who took it from my room. At one point I was told they had cameras and that they would check them. Then later I was told that they were no cameras. I don’t know what’s true in regard to their security procedures. It’s probable that it was an inside job.

What I do know is that miracle consciousness and prayer work.

I believe in the positive energy of all my friends on Facebook holding the return of my computer in prayer and I believe in the power of miracles consciousness. Thanks to all who sent their positive energy my way. I hope we can all continue to reach out in times of challenge and send one another loving thoughts. Focused positive intention is powerful Our love is powerful!

Below is a picture of my beloved computer.

computer