Let’s Get Free Seeks out the Stories of Women Lifers

In the winter of 2014, with the help of  Avis Lee, Let’s Get Free (LGF) created a short survey to learn more about the lives and histories of female lifers in Pennsylvania. Focusing on the women’s prison SCI-Cambridge Springs, where LGF members Charmaine Pfender and Avis Lee are currently incarcerated, we sent surveys to 27 inmates, all of whom have Pennsylvania’s mandatory “life without parole” sentence. Our goal was to learn more about the personal narratives of the women who have these sentences. Pennsylvania is one of only 6 states that have no parole options for lifers, which makes commutation the only possibility of release for these individuals, and which requires an admission of guilt, which is not an option for all inmates. For the last 25 years, only 6 men and no women or trans people serving life have been released.

We quickly received 18 responses to our questionnaire, many from inmates who were anxious to have their voices heard for the first time in decades.

This is the beginning of a series on the Let’s Get Free blog that will feature their voices, stories, and perspectives. Our first post is two poems that were submitted by Tracey “Nadirah” Shaw, #OD4315, who has been incarcerated for over 20 years:

We’re More Than Just A NumberLGF - Tracey Nadirah Shaw #OD4315-page-011
We’re More Than Just A Number
of that I have no doubt
So much aggression and humiliation
This we can do without
We’re More Than Just A Number
Why can’t you see?
We strive to be humble
But that’s only part of me.
We’re More Than Just A Number
We have families and friendships too
So the next time you criticize or judge US
THINK of how EASILY WE CAN BE YOU!

Here I Sit Doing Time
Here I sit doing time
for a crime I didn’t commit.
Here I sit doing time
when will they see there was not
enough evidence to convict me
But here I sit doing life.
Here I sit doing time
When the GUILTY one is running free
Here I sit doing time
for his crime, WHY! could he not just let us be free
We no longer wanted him couldn’t he see.
Now MY Angels are looking down on me.
For I know the God will listen and give me
strength to go on because He knows I’m INNOCENT.
He’ll open my eyes to see a brand new dawn.
One day this time will be over as I sit and wait
One day again I’ll feel FREEDOM as I
proudly walk through that GATE!

One thought on “Let’s Get Free Seeks out the Stories of Women Lifers

  1. Let’s reviewing some of theses cases to warrant whether these lengthy sentences were the proper decision,like they did for the federal drug cases these folks lives matter to.

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