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Missouri Prison Reform received the following message from a resident of a Missouri Department of Corrections facility. This message was shared with permission.


“To The Public,

In regard to the Department of Corrections (DOC) ‘Second Chance Initiative’ Program:

I am currently incarcerated at Vandalia’s women’s correctional institution out of Audrain County.

I have been detained for the past 11years. My opportunities at rehabilitation has not only been met with resistance by the correctional staff members within this facility, but far and few between as well. 

Back in 2021 when I received my release date of 6/13/2025, it was my intention to apply for work release and show a good strong work ethic ability in hope that I could get some good time credit granted and be released sooner than later. (After all the parole board members last words to me were, ” the better you behave, the sooner you go home.”)

At the time I did qualify for the work release program but was denied under scrupulous reasons. Shortly after applying to the work release program, I begin receiving uncommon conduct violations. While violations are written at the Correctional Officers (CO) desecration, the violations I received were for conduct usually warranting an informal sanction or warning. I eventually had to wait 90 days to reapply for work release. While waiting those days I was placed on administrative segregation under a PREA (prison rape elimination act) investigation. After spending months in solitary confinement all allegations, rightfully, came back unfounded. However, the number of conduct violations I received while under this illegitimate investigation caused me to lose out on the work release program indefinitely.

 When I was released form administrative segregation, the petty conduct violations continued to accumulate. Again these are violations written at the CO’s desecration.

Then after spending almost a year back in forth between segregation and general population, things started to calm down. I was able to reach 5 months conduct violation free status and achieve my O.R.A.S goals. I successfully completed Anger Management, Victims Impact Class, Pathways to Change, and most of all, I was finally able to start individual therapy with a steady therapist. But then my caseworker changed, and the petty violations began to pick up again.

Although I believed the conduct violations were unwarranted and my “Due Process” was violated, I did my best to remain focused by applying to Washington University’s, Prisoner Education Project, Headed by Dr, Kevin Windhauser. Amongst all the applicants I was one of the 20 to be accepted into this, once in a lifetime and life altering program.

 Now with three weeks until classes start, the caseworker changed my room, where I had been assigned for more than eight months, without cause. And now less than 5 days in my new room assignment, I have been placed on administrative segregation under another PREA investigation and now in the process of receiving more petty conduct violations.

The success of our rehabilitation is comprised and dependent on the desecration, mood, and power/ego trip (for lack of better description) of the CO we come into contact with on a daily basis.

With all due respect, the quality of officers are usually poorly educated, underappreciated, over worked, high-strung, stressed-out individuals who did not plan on, nor work towards any career as a prison guard.

So if they want to show up to work, disgruntled and write innumerable petty conduct violations (because all they have to do is say you did it, and you done it) or put you under some illegitimate investigation for months, who am I but an inmate, just trying to rehabilitate and get home, caught up in their furry, to stop them. 

Why should the success of my rehabilitation be dependent on anything other than my efforts?

Regretfully, I am convinced I’m one of the inmates this institution wishes to design as poorly adjusted, problematic, “The Angry Black Woman”, etc. This is not so.

Truth is I came into DOC with the hopes to reform the belief my social class, my community, my ancestors, has long sense been plagued with, Our great mistrust in law enforcement and all resemblance to it.

Now, after all I’ve witnessed… The abuse of authority, the sexual abuse, physical abuse mental, emotional, psychological (which leaves no physical scars)… the drug abuse. The lies, the intimidation tactic, the list goes on and on. The reasons to mistrust is real. But this is another issue. Or is it?

This investigation will do nothing more than subject me to solitary confinement for months and prevent me from attending the Washington University Prisoners Education Program.  And its my belief that comprising the success of my rehabilitation is all they truly intended to do anyway.

Respectfully Submitted,

Cassandra Johnston.”

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