Pelipost is launching a new series devoted to the stories of those incarcerated. Our next story is by Dionna Beacham who shares her struggles and her triumphs while behind bars.
Written By: Dionna Beacham
Hey Pelipost Viewers,
I would like to share my story with you. I’ve never written for a blog before, so bear with me.
I am a 45-year-old African American woman who has been incarcerated since the age of 19 for a crime I committed in 1994. My 14-year-old co-defendant did a few months in a juvenile center and went home. She put the crime and blame on me because I was older. She got off without any repercussions. I’ve been sitting behind bars for 27 years for a crime that was committed by two people but was solely placed on one individual.
At the end of the day, I was found guilty by a jury in 1996 and sentenced to an extended term of 90 years imprisonment. The state wants me to serve 45 years of that 90-year sentence. I was a first-time offender who had no criminal background but was sentenced as a habitual criminal.
Did I deserve to be punished for my crime? Absolutely! One hundred percent! Should it have been so harsh? I don’t believe so. I deserved to do time behind bars, but to sentence me as if I am the worst of the worst and incapable of change isn’t fair.
Still to this day, I continue to fight for my freedom, reaching out to various organizations, projects and legal firms for professional assistance. The road has been bumpy, but I refuse to give up. I continue to fight because I am no threat or danger to society, nor am I that same selfish, non-compliant, immature teenager who did a lot of childish and foolish things in her past. I’m mature. I’m wiser, and my “thought process” is far from what is used to be when I was a kid.
My past does not define the person I am today. During my years of incarceration, I’ve kept busy doing positive things trying to prepare myself for society. I’ve graduated from several college classes and in March 2020, I earned my Associates Degree in Liberal Studies. That is something I am very proud of.
The criminal justice system talks a good game of rehabilitating, restoring and returning offenders back into society, but truth be told, the non-violent crimes and/or repeat offenders are the ones who keep getting chance after chance. Offenders who have nowhere to go upon release and did nothing to better themselves while incarcerated. Yet, offenders like myself who have a strong support system on the outside, have a place to go upon release and bettered themselves through education are the ones who rarely get a second chance to prove that we can live in society as law-abiding citizens.
I also know that no good deed I’ve done while incarcerated can erase the fact that the crime I committed in 1994 changed and disrupted the normality of so many lives. Although I am sincerely remorseful and very apologetic to the victim’s family and my family as well, the consequences of my past actions still remain. I cannot change the past. All I can do is continue to work at being better than I was the day before. I’ve evolved into a mature, hardworking, responsible, and educated woman. My freedom means a lot to me and I will not stop fighting until I get it.
What helps me get through the day? My faith in God. I was brought up in a Baptist church, so I look to my daily bread readings to help build my strength, because at times I do get discouraged. Writing my own fiction novels helps me get through the day as well. Writing takes me away from prison for a while. Last but not least, knowing that I have family and friends on the outside who love me and support my fight for my freedom really means a lot and gets me through another day.
What do I look forward to from family and friends? Mental support, letters, emails, visits, and phone calls mean a lot to me. It gives me that connection with them. Staying mentally fit goes a long way behind these walls.
What can my friends and family do to keep my spirits up? Honestly, just continue to encourage and support me mentally and spiritually, and most of all continue to help me fight for my freedom.
To be incarcerated for over two decades and never see a parole board is truly sad. The parole board seriously needs to come back to Illinois. Offenders are just sitting here getting old. Hopefully change is going to come.