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EPILOGUE Every woman who participated in this research departed Alpha Omega House. Most graduated the program, meaning they had “successfully” completed it. Others received what the women call a “dishonorable discharge”—they were transferred out of the program to another community-­ based intervention or returned to imprisonment. This final chapter describes departure from the house, what happened to some of the women following release, and the further need for sober, unflinching research into the real-­ life consequences of reentry programs intended to empower women. Release I can’t even be excited about leaving this place, it’s so sad. When I came, monitors and them downstairs barely said hello. I never felt so helpless in my life. And now, they don’t care where I’m goin.’—Mimi rosa It is Rosa’s graduation. At 8:15 a.m., women of the house gather in the dining room for a special graduation breakfast—scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, sausages, juice drink, and milk. Entering the room together, the executive director and anotheradministrativestaffmemberquicklybegin the ceremony. A smilingRosa stands as she is presented with her Certificate of Completion and a butterfly necklace. “You are now,” says the director, “a member of the sisterhood of Alpha Omega, the beginning and the end.” “You are,” continues the director, “like a butterfly, a woman reborn and renewed.” Other women of the house sit silently at the tables eating breakfast. The director tells the women that the house “is about helping women and giving them everything they need for a good life.” She then leads the women in rehearsing the 212 a halfway house for women pledge for this sorority that all of them learned in Blackout. It is 8:20 a.m. and the ceremony has concluded. Rosa anxiously waits for her discharge as she sits with the other residents in the living room before the booming television. This ceremony is like any other graduation here—short, rote, mechanical. Adeline’s sentiment captures the mood. She says, “It is just to say it was done, that something was done for the cameras that weren’t here.” Graduation occurs at Alpha Omega when a woman successfully completes the house’s phases of stay and has secured housing. It is a ritual of rebirth in ceremonious form just as convent departure was for the nuns who lived here before. And like those nuns transformed toward spiritual awakening with new identities (van Doorn-­Harder, 1995), reentry center graduates are said to be transformed as they are presented the butterfly necklace and the certificate of membership into a sorority of women resocialized for productive community life. The intercom sounds: “Rosa, report to the monitors’ office.” As Rosa rises from the sofa to leave, the mood is quite somber. She and the others have bonded, but they know their relationships have come to an end. When women leave, they want nothing to do with this reentry center. Rosa says of disconnecting with Henrietta, “It’s betta’ to forget about it, to put it out your head ’n see her when she get out.” Even while the women’s connections are strong and essential, the relationships are typically “only for a minute.” When they leave the house, rarely do they ever look back; most relationships move into history, and the women are once again on their own. Rosa gives Henrietta a long embrace and hugs Mimi and Phoebe. She returns to Henrietta, who is crying aloud, and says, “I love you, Hen.” With two white, kitchen-­sized plastic bags filled with her clothing and other personals, Rosa stops at the entrance to the monitors’ office, where she collects her bank ATM card and state identification card (kept by the house during her stay), all of her medications , and a partial payout of the money left on her books. She says not a word to staff, turns, and waves to the other women standing in the narrow hallway to see her off. Rosa has been discharged. Like other women graduating the reentry center , she will be supervised by probation or parole for the length of time she owes the criminal justice system that she did not serve in confinement or at Alpha Omega House. She owes five years. Rosa lights a cigarette as the reentry center door shuts behind her and says, “I’m out. I’ll neva come back to dis mothafucka.” She tosses her Alpha Omega ID epilogue 213 to the ground. There are no family members at the gate, no...


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MARC Record
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