Free from believing I am stupid.
Free to say NO.
"I had to learn to find my freedom while I was still incarcerated."
My journey to true freedom began in 2011 when I arrived at the Raleigh Unit of North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women. I had already served 20 years of a life sentence, and I was excited to be at a minimum custody camp. I immediately went to the Hope Center and became active in anything I thought would help me understand where I was, how I had gotten there, who I was, where was I going, and most of all whose I was. Through the joint effort of the prison and IPMW, many programs were brought in, and fantastic chaplains were there to guide me in the direction God had for me. I began to grow and walk toward freedom.
I began this journey to freedom before I knew that I would ever physically get out of prison. While parole was a possibility, it was not a guarantee. I had to learn to find my freedom while I was still incarcerated. I gained freedom from domestic violence, unforgiveness of myself and others, and much more. The biggest growth and the hardest leg of the journey was when I began taking classes offered through a joint initiative called Project Turn. This is a program offered by Duke Divinity School to give incarcerated women a chance to grow spiritually. It was the hardest and most rewarding thing I have done. Not only was I able to answer the questions I had asked in 2011, but I learned much, much more. During these classes, I learned who God is and who He wanted me to be. I learned that even though I was in prison with a life sentence, He had a plan for my life, and He would fulfill that plan even if it meant never reaching the "free world" again. I learned about the images that are used in the Bible to depict God, and that while they may seem minor, they can provide the comfort He desires us to have. But some of the most important things I learned were about me. These classes gave me the insight to realize that I am worthy of respect, I have a voice, and I have something valuable to say.
Today I can say that I am free from myself and the past. I am free to make my own decisions and to control who comes and goes in my life. I am finally free to say NO. I am also free from believing that I am stupid. I am free to be the intelligent and competent woman of God that I was always meant to be.
And, I am finally free from prison, too!
Through programs offered at the Hope Center, chaplains, and IPMW, I had the courage to walk out of the gates of NCCIW when I was paroled in December of 2018 to face the unknown. After serving twenty seven years in prison, I can now walk out the door and go where I want because I am assured of God's presence in my life. The future is still unknown, but I know who I am and whose I am. Thank you God, IPMW, Duke Divinity, and the chaplains at the Hope Center in Raleigh!
Deborah Ainsworth received her “Certificate of Achievement in Theological Education” from Duke University Divinity School on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 for the 8 graduate-level courses she successfully completed in the prison through ProjectTURN. She lives and works at Benevolence Farm, is in charge of the greenhouse, and is enjoying every minute of her freedom, anxiously waiting to see what God is going to do next in her life.