For me, this week’s episode of OWN’s Breaking Down the Bars began with an “OH Tiffany!”. Before I could even settle in, Tiffany was being hauled off into maximum security lock down for allegedly refusing to go to work on her day off. Not even 2 minutes into the show. Scheduled to be released in about 3 days…what was she thinking? So close…it should be all “yes, thank you’s” at this point. Her case worker wondered if the thought of transitioning to the outside was freaking her out a bit. If she acts up, she may not be allowed to leave. Talking through the locked door, Tiffany expressed her fears about dealing with her mother’s illness and whether her release would really happen. On Monday, Tiffany was released. After 5 ½ years she knew the world had changed. She arrived home and was greeted by her mother. With family all around her, Tiffany felt wonderful to be home.
As the days passed, Tiffany didn’t make time for her mother or family. Her mother spent years waiting to spend time with her daughter and she was no where to be found. Not there to help her mother or even greet her kids as they came home from school…her mother felt completely unappreciated. [read more…]
This week’s episode of OWN’s Breaking Down the Bars pulled down the bars of shame for several inmates. Hope can be the catalyst for change and hopefully some of the girls got a little bit of it this week. The show started off with Hannah as her parents, Shawn and Sarah, arrived at the jail this week for some family counseling. Hopeful about answering their questions, Hannah realized she has no control over their reactions. As the session began, you could tell how tense they all were. How far was the session going to go? Mom wanted to know what made her turn towards drugs. As all mothers do, Sarah felt she had let her child down. As her mom went on about how “on track” Hannah was before she started drugs, she appeared swallowed in the misconception. It is difficult to speak up and shatter the illusion you feel that your parents hold. Dr. Covington asked Hannah if she would be able to express why to her parents. As she went to speak, both of her parents interjected. After the mom and dad talked a bit….Dr. Covington told her parents that all they had t do was ask her. They started to and then they began answering all the questions for her. Hannah had no voice.
The parents went on to talk about how Hannah had gone to many counselors…but she wasn’t able to open up to her mother and father and they knew that she wouldn’t be able to open up to strangers. It was interesting. When Dr. C refocused the family on the original question they had asked Hannah, neither parent could tell you what the question was. Hannah had no voice because they speak for her. I don’t think it is done on purpose, but that habit can occur when you are trying to protect yourself or the person you are speaking for….trying to make it all OK. Hannah finally told her mom and dad that she lied to them so they wouldn’t look down on her. She lied to shield the truth. [read more…]
Breaking Down the Bars….literally this week on OWN. While a couple of inmates worked on crushing their own emotional demons, another stepped outside the unlocked gates. Lots of positive energy filled the episode as a few of the women found a way to breathe a little easier.
This week’s show opened the gates for Nicole as she was re-entered the outside world. As she pulled into town the first face she saw was the father of her children…and not on purpose. Memories of her son flooded back. She entered her new temporary home, the Wabash Valley Work Release program, and struggled with not only her nerves, but also her guilt. A simple dorm, showers that you don’t have to share and even washing machines…a huge step up from the barred walls she once lived in. Determined to make the best of it, she settled in. Her parents arrived with clothes, makeup and toiletries…all luxuries for their daughter. Her mother tried to focus on the positive and allow her daughter to believe that something good can come from all of this. With a new chest of goodies, Nicole was ready to start looking for a job…a requirement of the program. As she sat in her first interview, you could see her wanting to crumble into the chair, but she didn’t. When asked why she was in the work release program, she was honest and short…hopefully that will be enough. [read more…]
Although Nicole started the show on a high note this episode, she landed flat. Yeah her! She was reassigned to a work release program after 3 long years behind the gates. She struggled with the fears of wondering how she will fit into society. Freedom can be scary when you haven’t had it in a while. But oh Nicole…don’t pack to soon. Nicole was caught in the shower with another woman. TOTALLY against the rules. Her case worker was concerned that Nicole received a conduct write-up 9 days before going home. After 2 years in jail without getting in trouble, Nicole found herself us against the wall. Although she was found guilty, they suspended the extra time penalty. She lucked out! By the episode’s end….Nicole headed out the door. I hope she does well, for herself and her children.
Then there is Hannah. OH- Hannah. Apparently the final step in the C.L.I.F.F. drug program is truly a stressful one. The relapse prevention phase required her to go in front of a peer council who determined whether she was ready to move on from the treatment program. If she wasn’t, she’d need to start the treatment phase of the program over. To Hannah, she felt this was a step to “freedom” however her peer council seemed to have some serious concerns about her relationship with her boyfriend Joe. [read more…]
OWN took a closer look into the softer side of Amanda this week’s episode. She focused once again on the fact that she hadn’t gotten any mail from her mother…which is beginning to get a bit annoying. To her, mail was the lifeline to her mother’s support which she feels she needs for recovery. Dr. Covington had her first one-on-one with her and she shared that she had been sexually abused from ages 5 to 10 years old by her mother’s best friend. As both her mother and her best friend used crank, it was easy to understand how Amanda became a user by age 5. Suddenly the mother issues made TOTAL sense. Amanda decided it was time to write her mother and share how she felt. The show headed to Tracy’s home, Amanda’s mother. She read the letter and informed us that Amanda grew up with her being bipolar. She spoke of how Amanda didn’t start getting in trouble until she was around 7 or 8. I can’t help but think that is 2 years after the molestation began. Her mom felt a lot of guilt and responsibility for how her daughter’s life has unraveled. Next mail-call that we see…Amanda gets her letter and it was a beautiful one. Just what Amanda needed. You could tell she felt loved and hopeful. Maybe now she can start to heal.
An insightful Nicole emerged this episode. A young girl who got hooked on drugs, had children with multiple men, always made sure her children where clean and fed… and neglectful emotionally and actively as a mother. Her story is not all that uncommon, so it was a great addition to the series. Sentenced for reckless homicide, Nicole had left her 2 sons in the bathtub as she went to the front door to get her daughter off the bus. Her 11 month old son drown. [read more…]
A couple of new, complex women were introduced on a deeper level this week. The first to open up is Tiffany who was sentenced to 20 years for robbery and criminal confinement. When you hear that it just sounds cold and hard, but her story helps me understand more clearly how she got to that point. Her mother was a dancer and her father was a pimp. Not exactly the parents or influences one would have hoped for. Within that dangerous environment, Tiffany found herself at 17 years old the victim of rape…..by 14 men. How does one even deal with being raped by 14 different men? Somehow Tiffany survived, but I have to wonder if you don’t get help, where does that lead you?
For Tiffany, it led her to prison. She became a dancer and started doing drugs to escape the reality of it all. Already feeling degraded, she found herself lashing out by robbing her clients. When one particular customer pushed her too far, she and her boyfriend wanted to ”make him pay”. They beat him, robbed him and left him for dead. A horrific crime that unfortunately makes sense. Poor parenting, multiple rapes, dangerous living, doing drugs….any of those alone can break someone down. The combination of them all was just too much. [read more…]
When I first saw the previews to this show, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t want to follow a reality show based on the daily lives of convicts, nor did I want to be a part of something that sensationalized criminals. It didn’t seem promising. I mean…how much can a show do that shoots from Rockville Correctional Institute, a women’s prison in Indiana? Well, leave it Oprah and the OWN network to add the right touches. At first glance, this show appears to be far more than reality candy.
I must admit I was a little biased as soon as I heard the theme song, “Weight of My Mistakes”. I LOVE Seal…what a treat! On the show every woman has her OWN story of how she ended up in prison, yet OWN did a great job of choosing a nice cross sample. The women’s stories are just beginning and appear to be unique and compelling.
Some of the women seem to be ready for a change while others still just don’t seem to get it. Larretha who had dreams of playing basketball and even had a full scholarship, ends up throwing it all away for by taking part in a robbery for a small amount of cash. Although Larretha spends most of the show dealing with her desire to feel connected to someone ( preferably a girlfriend in prison), she doesn’t really have a grasp on the big picture. She is far more in the moment which makes it difficult to make good choices for her future. Then there is Abbie. [read more…]