My 30s Behind Bars

by Zabrina Hall
January 2009


As I sit back, I look at my life from behind bars. I was a nurse aide for ten years and wanted to go to school to get my G.E.D. since I did not finish high school due to my getting pregnant at the age of 16.

I know a lot about nursing. When it comes to becoming an LPN or Registered Nurse (RN), I was ashamed to let people know that I didn’t complete high school.

At the age of 30, I got arrested for murder which got dropped to a voluntary manslaughter sentence of ten years, which is not mandatory. When I knew I was going to prison, I said, “I’ll get my education while it’s free and offered to me again.” And that was what I did. I got to prison in 2004. I kept inquiring about school. The staff kept telling me that, due to my prison time, I wasn’t eligible.

I kept pressing forward so that I could obtain my G.E.D. I even wrote the central office of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction about my concerns.

One day in February, 2006, I got transferred from ORW to Franklin Pre-Release Center where I obtained my G.E.D. in June, 2006. That was the best day of my life, knowing that I achieved that piece of paper everyone says we need. And most of all, I did it for myself.

It didn’t stop there. I entered a vocational trade which is called “drafting”. I completed that training. I also tutored in that field for awhile. From there, I went to O.P.I. to work as a CAD operator doing floor plans and blue prints.

Even though no one wants to be in prison, it’s all about how you do your time, and I chose to do it in a productive way. Was it easy? No, but I had my mind set on the right thing.

As I look over my life, I never thought that I would be obtaining my education from behind bars. The thing that gets me is that all of my siblings got their education behind bars. So, that goes to say, for me, prison doesn’t discriminate – good people go to prison, too. Today, I can say – and if I can help it – that I will be the last in my family to receive my education from behind bars. I pray that, from here on out, the rest of my family will get their education in the free world, starting with my son.

The key to everyday living is changing your thinking. The world is only as big or as small as you see it. Think beyond the box; if you believe it, you can achieve it. I did it, and so can you.

When it’s time for my release, I’ll thank God first that I endured this part of my life. And this is only the beginning of my education; there’s more for me to do with my life, and it started with me, personally.

Now, I’m able to help someone else with her or his education. That’s what life is all about: giving to someone else.