State creates video aimed at high-risk female offenders

"Choices: the long road home" seeks to curb prison entry

Indianapolis

When Marketta Jones cashed a $375 check that did not belong to her, she essentially sold her freedom for a dollar a day as she was sentenced to the Indiana Women’s Prison on Indianapolis’ west side.

“I did just about everything,” said Jones. “I sold my body. I stole from my aunt. I went and cashed checks. I was smoking dope at the time so getting high, you will do anything and everything to get a high so it doesn’t matter.”

Jones was one of a handful of female offenders interviewed for a video produced in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Department of Corrections titled, “Choices: The Long Road Home.” The video is a follow-up to a similar video that was shot several years ago aimed at discouraging young women from entering the corrections system.

“I didn’t do drug court for three months,” said Jones. “I got high again and was on the run. I got probation and I messed up so I’m locked up.”

More than 2,000 women are incarcerated in the state system. Many of them, like Jones, are mothers, who also committed crimes for the men in their lives.

“I started dealing dope for a man, because he was doing it and he wanted me to do it,” said Jones. “I started smoking crack for a man because I thought I would be able to keep him at home and he wouldn’t go out. He would stay home and we would get high together and that turned out to be horrible.

“My addiction got so bad that I actually gave up my kids for foster care because I couldn’t take care of them anymore.”

Two of Jones’ children remain in foster care. She is the mother of infant twins who were born in prison. She visits them in an onsite nursery every day.

Cassandra Andrade’s children are also living with relatives as she is serving a sentence for felony drunk driving.

“I’ve done a lot for guys. I’ve left my kids to go party.

“If I could get one girl and help her out I would say, ‘Don’t settle for any man to do whatever they want you to do because you have low self esteem or low self confidence,’” said Andrade.

A lack of self esteem landed Ramona Johnson into a nightmare in 1993 as she provided a gun that killed a customer at a fast food restaurant. Johnson served 12 years in prison before she was paroled in 2005, with the prosecutor’s blessing. She is currently studying to receive a master’s degree in social work at IUPUI.

“I think that I walk around with a scarlet letter, a big F on you for felony.

“Prison sucks. Prison is horrible. It strips you of so many things.

“Girls are smart. They need to realize their self worth. They need to realize that getting their education and becoming a leader later on in life is what they need to do,” said Johnson.

Johnson appeared in the original “Choices” video and returned to IWP for the follow up video. Officials intend to use the video to reach young female offenders, often at the county level, in an attempt to warn them of the road bad choices lead to.

“It’s all about choices,” said Johnson. “It’s all about making the right choice. It’s all about thinking before you act so you have to make the right choices.”

Watch the video, “Choices: The Long Road Home”, here.

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