The Walk to New Beginnings by Cara Bailey

Tuesday May 3, 2022.

Hearts beating, minds racing, excitement, sadness, anticipation, anxiety. Thoughts of What if I don’t make it out there? What if I fail? What if I relapse? All these crazy feelings and thoughts. With every step I took, all the way to the vault. My chest was getting tighter. I didn’t want to leave her. I didn’t want to leave everything I’ve known since (1/12/17). But is was MY TURN to go finally. My time for freedom.

The wait for my county to arrive to pick me up was excruciating. I was nervous, my stomach hurt. Then the walk to the van came. I was taking in everything (every little detail, mental photographs). The one person I needed to see but couldn’t. It’s not her turn yet. But it’s okay. I know she loves me. This is just as hard for me as it is for her.

I’m sitting in the sheriff’s van watching out the windows. My stomach is in knots. I’m nervous, excited, emotional. I can taste freedom from within these handcuffs and shackles. The whole ride I am car sick. Keeping my head between my legs. Feeling like I’m going to die.

Once I arrived to my county jail I was feeling fine. I spent 8 hours in booking. That was boring. You can only count the bricks on the wall so many times. I sat in a hard chair the whole time, through a storm, through my own sleepiness. I kept asking the guard “How much longer?” I kept getting the same response: Soon. Finally, after 8PM, they took me to A block.

Little did I know, my childhood friend RAMONA was in jail, along with my praise dancing director Rupaul was still sitting there awaiting immigration. I ended up in Rupaul’s cell. It was a little comforting to be around those I knew.

I went right to sleep around 9pm. I was mentally tired. EXHAUSTED, DRAINED, who knew leaving prison would be this way.

The next morning May 4th 2022, breakfast was cheerios and toast. It was edible. Anxiety slipped its claws back into me like a vicious dog.

I’m ready to go. Beginning to get impatient for court. Finally lunch arrives, welcoming any distraction. Breaded veal, salad with French dressing, pears, and nasty lemonade.

Then it was time to lockdown. Lockdown is for about 10 minutes and then they let us back out of our cells. I sit and watch TV with Rupaul and the guard comes to the door and says “Smith, it’s time for court.”

Finally 6 years waiting for this moment. I go up front where booking is. I have to get shackled and cuffed up. Walking out to the van. I have all these mixed emotions come over again.

I think about seeing my Mom, family and kids for the first time since m arrival to Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW). Ffeelings of excitement and nervousness hits me like a ton of bricks. A 10 minute ride to the courthouse, walking into this familiar building that I haven’t seen since my sentencing. Thoughts were everywhere.

What if they brought me here just to send me back to prison? What if I fail? What if I really didn’t learn anything in my 6 years incarcerated? what if I relapse? What if everything falls apart?

15 minutes pass and I was in front of Judge Shuff. I’m shaking, mind reeling. As I walk into the courtroom and see my mother she smiles at me, all the while I’m shaking. Nerves are getting the best of me.

The judge starts talking and everything became a blur. Until I hear my stipulations for him granting my judicial. He asked me if I had anything to say. I stood up and told him I learned my lesson and I know it’s going to take different people, places and things. That I plan to prove to him that I’ve changed.

HE GRANTS MY JUDICIAL and slams the gavel.

I had to go back to county. They told me they didn’t know how long it would take to be released. Upon the wait, anxiety, excitement and worry began all in the same breath. 20 minutes later: “Smith, pack it up.” which meant taking my bedding and couple of personal items down to booking to be discharged. I take my stuff downstairs, being escorted by a correctional officer. Thoughts of Am I dreaming? Is this real? This is finally over. To the front of the jail. They take me to a room to change out of my state issued uniform.

My paperwork was ready for my discharge. I sign my 9 letters, signing my full name again. Not a number and I’m released. My new journey begins May 4th 2022.

Cara Bailey (7-3-22)

I began lettersfromchristopher in 2019 to draw attention to the plight of America’s incarcerated. Thank you to all of you for following week after week. Please share these posts with others.

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