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Her observation rings true when I see Ashley Maya. During each of our three visits, there were never more than seven out of the 19 windows being used by guests.

Autolino believes the biggest challenge female prisoners face is readjusting to life outside.

“People need to be less apt to judge. We’ve all made mistakes. We need to help these women reestablish [themselves] and get back into society. If we don’t give them the opportunity to succeed, we’re part of the problem.”

One way Charlene feels communities can help convicts reestablish themselves is by banning “the box,” the section on a job application that asks if you have committed a felony.

“If you check that box, Human Resources will throw your application away without even looking at it. They don’t know that person. Yes, they’ve committed a crime, but what if they’ve been an active part of society for five years? Should they work minimum wage forever? They’ve already served their time. Why do they need to serve it on the outside, too?”

When Ashley Maya learned what her sentence was, she was at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“I was already disgruntled when my lawyer called. I was applying for a new driver’s license, because my other one had been taken into evidence. There’s a box on the [DMV] form that asks, ‘Have you been convicted of a felony?’ I thought, ‘Great! Now I’m going to have to check that box.’”

Over the phone, her lawyer told her that she would serve a year in jail, followed by five years probation.

“Up until that point, I was in denial that I would do jail time. I didn’t fill in the box that day, because I hadn’t been formally convicted yet.”

When Maya is released in August, 2013, she will have two felonies on her record. She admits that her future doesn’t seem bright. She’s unsure what she will do when she gets out. She has a degree in psychology, and is considering a career in personal training,

“The thing is,” she says, “people will take one look at the box I have to check and pass [on me] immediately. The worst part is right above that box. It asks, ‘Have you served in the military?’ I’ll check both.”

Maya can pay for her DUI to be expunged after seven years, but the vehicular manslaughter will remain on her record.

Maya is a fourth-generation Marine, so the sting of being dishonorably discharged for her accident weighs heavily on her. Her five little brothers have aspirations of serving their country.

“They look up to me. I’m their role model. It’s hard to be a role model from behind bars.”

Maya admits that only her 18-year-old brother knows about her incarceration. The other four have no idea.

“I’ll tell them when they’re older. I want to be an example to them of what not to do. No one can punish me worse than I already punish myself. I try really hard not to think about the shame I brought on the Marine Corps.”

Maya continues, “You would never understand what it’s like to go from serving your country to serving time — to be treated like a hero, and then like a criminal.”

When Cassie Briscoe attempted to find work after being placed on house arrest, she realized she would have to confess her felony. She was certain it would hinder her chances, but Briscoe was fortunate enough to be rehired at a previous job.

“Filling in that little box brought out a lot of emotions in me. I was worried about being rejected. I’m constantly rejected. I realize I’ve created this, but I’m trying to move on. When I fill in that box, all employers see is a person that was in prison.”

Briscoe believes that many people fail when they get out prison due to overwhelming expectations.

“When you get out, [the courts] want you to do this and that, and get a job. How can you get a job with a felony? A felony changes everything. I see these men and women get out of prison, and they fall. I try to look at [my crime] as my past, but it’s hard to put it behind me.”

Briscoe’s recent arrest left her with $10,000 in court fees. On top of that, she had to pay an addition $1000 for her house arrest.

“I don’t know how I’ll afford it. I’m trying to get back on my feet, and I can barely make it. Every time I go to court, it’s 300 more dollars. The treasurer’s department keeps sending me bills.”

Briscoe compares her court fees to a student loan, only without the benefit of obtaining a degree.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do next. When most people were going to high school and college, I was doing drugs and working in the adult-entertainment business. I’m still figuring it out.”

Cassie volunteers at Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry with girls who are getting in trouble with the law.

“I want to be able to help those kids. I just started going in there and sharing my story. I tell those girls, ‘This is where I am now. The events of my past don’t define me.’ I want to make a difference in their lives.”

Ashley Maya’s release date is August 3.

“The first thing I want to do when I get out of here is go to a spa and wash the jail off of me, but first I’ll have to check into probation.”

She is looking forward to having a real pillow, a real toothbrush, mouthwash, and a comfortable mattress again.

Since she missed Pedro’s funeral due to her incarceration, Maya wants to take a visit to Virginia to visit his grave. She will have to get special permission from her probation officer to travel.

Maya is unsure what her future holds.

“I have the strong feeling that I am supposed to do something with what happened to me. I believe everything happens for a reason. I might not know why now, but, eventually, I’ll look back and realize why. At some point I’ll say, ‘Okay, Lord, that’s why that happened.’”

Reader poll

Have you ever visited somone in prison?

  • Yes 44%
  • No 56%

165 total votes.

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jnojr April 10, 2013 @ 10:01 a.m.

It's "Marine". Lower-case is fine if we're talking about Mexican marines or marine soldiers from anywhere else. But the USMC consists of big-M Marines.


Ponzi April 11, 2013 @ 7:39 a.m.

I doubt that distinction will be necessary for one who has a dishonorable discharge.


Ruby_Tuesday April 13, 2013 @ 12:44 a.m.

Interesting read. I’m sad to say there are actually 33 (not 22) state prisons in California. Also, noteworthy: Inmates have not and will not be "released early without supervision" under AB 109. The only way to be released without supervision is if an inmate serves his/her full sentence. If an inmate is paroled early, he/she must be supervised by a parole officer.

AB 109, aka Public Safety Realignment, mandates that non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders (sentenced AFTER AB 109) will serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prison. NO INMATES CURRENTLY IN STATE PRISON HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO COUNTY JAILS OR RELEASED EARLY UNDER AB 109.

It is accurate to report that the state has been ordered to bring the prison’s population down to 137.5 percent capacity by June 2013 but the pertinent reason for the order should be included. That reason being: The “horrendous overcrowded conditions inside CA’s prison” were found by the Supreme Court to be “inhumane and unconstitutional,” contributing to the death of 1 inmate every 7 days. Target deadlines for reducing the population have been missed.

Currently, the Governor and other top state officials are at risk of being found in contempt of court if they miss the target deadline in June. There's an ironic story...


motoed April 11, 2013 @ 4:21 p.m.

I have a friend in Los Colinas. I visited her and since she has been there (three months) I was her only visitor. Only a few people were there visiting on that Saturday afternoon.


Visduh April 12, 2013 @ 7:26 p.m.

Huh? Can someone translate that to English?


Visduh April 14, 2013 @ 8:45 p.m.

I doubt it. Punctuation, spelling, syntax, and grammar aren't a gender sort of thing.


pearljammed April 14, 2013 @ 9:10 p.m.

There are prison ministries that go out and visit several women's prisons. I was involved with one that went out to area women's work camps a couple of years ago. There were a lot of rules to follow and a big background check to pass but it was worth it. One Saturday per month, we would gather a group and drive up to these places and hang out with the gals. It was a very rewarding experience for us and I think the incarcerated ladies enjoyed the attention too.


ahousebythesea April 16, 2013 @ 6:56 a.m.

In response to the Reader Poll question, "Have you ever visited someone in prison?", 83% responded yes. Interesting.


Catbird April 16, 2013 @ 8:39 p.m.

Many believe that AB109, California's answer the federal mandate to reduce prison overcrowding, is affecting public safety.

Eleven men, once pegged as lower-level criminal offenders, have been charged with committing violent crimes in San Diego County since a new law shifted responsibility for supervising them from state to local authorities. (San Diego Tribune, Jan. 19, 2013, Shifting inmates to local control not a perfect fix by Dana Littlefield)

AB109 was intended to encourage alternatives to incarceration, not merely the shifting of responsibility for housing and supervising certain criminals from the state to counties.

While the funding provided by Proposition 30 is not anywhere near enough, a good chunk of it should be spent on providing more effective drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, job training, incentives to employers to hire rehabilitated offenders and halfway houses, NOT MORE JAILS. Now is the time to start thinking outside the box to find better community based alternatives to incarceration. Without quality, sensible programs to assist those released (like the two ladies in this story) to transition and integrate back into society, we will most certainly set them up for continued failure and ourselves to suffer through an escalating cycle of crime.


Letter to the Editor Oct. 12, 2014 @ 11:44 a.m.

What a great article. Really enjoyed it. I am currently going through my wife of 16 years being incarcerated. She is currently at Las Colinas. We do see some visitors. What's bad about LC is, even the lowest security level has to do video visitation. It's horrible. You see your loved one on a very small monitor. It's horrific for our kids. I am trying to get my Wife's voice heard. We have started a blog from her letters she sends once a week. These letters are very powerful. Sad, but powerful. Shows, strength, sadness, hopelessness, depression. Please take the time just to hear her voice. Thank you!


Steve Brase


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