SPECIAL REPORT: Behind Bars One Year Later
One year ago, Fox 31 did a two part series called "Behind Bars" where we met two women in the Dougherty County Jail.
One inmate was a grandmother and the other was six months pregnant. One year after her overnight stay in the Dougherty County Jail, Romney Smith checks back in with the ladies to see what their lives are like today.
Colonel John Ostrander is the Director of the Dougherty County Jail and says that everyone who walks through their doors says it's their last time coming to jail. "Some people are sincere and will never return, but unfortunately a lot of them will have another stay in jail at some point in their future" says Ostrander.
In 2010 Fox 31 News introduced you to two female inmates in the jail. At the time both Jennifer Kelly and Mary Prince said it was their last time in jail. Kelly said it was her last time because she was too old to be living a life of crime and had finally gotten on the right path with God. Prince said being pregnant in jail opened her eyes that she had to provide a better life for her growing family. One year later â" they are both still behind bars.
Jennifer Kelly is now in federal prison from the same case that landed her in the Dougherty County Jail. After being cell mates for a night in jail â" Romney Smith decided to keep in touch with her through letters. Below are a few excerpts from letters Jennifer Kelly sent about her current position in life. "I went to court on November 29, 2010 and got 2 years in prison, it sounds bad but considering the 9 years the probation officers was recommending. Plus I get a chance for parole. So I pray and expect to be home before the spring." "I recently got assaulted and it shook me up...I even ended up in lock down. I was angry, but used the solitude to seek God and write a few more things in a devotional I hadn't written in months. I'm adamant about moving forward in the path and purpose of God. I used to feel as thou it was too late and I had done too much, but I'm getting glimpse of God's grace and I know that there is hope for me in Christ I look to rise way above this" writes Kelly.
Col. Ostrander says many inmates turn to faith in order to make it through their sentence. "Some of them are very very sincere. They honestly want to make a change in their lives and they've determined that they cannot within themselves muster up the strength to change their life, but with that outside source of strength then perhaps they can do it - and they mean it" says Ostrander.
Jennifer Kelly says when she gets out of federal she plans to reconnect with family, finally meet her grandson, and stay anchored on the right path by God.
The other inmate we met was Mary Prince who was 6 months pregnant at the time. We spoke to Prince by phone and she says her last stay in jail was a rock bottom experience. "That was the lowest I've ever been because here I am pregnant, doing drugs, stealing, and taking my 2-year-old around with me to do all of them bad things" says Prince.
Col. Ostrander says rock bottom experiences can vary from person to person, but when it happens â" it's typically life changing. "That rock bottom experience is generally what gives that person the determination to make a real change. It helps them identify the road or the path to their life that led them to this jail and to finally put themselves on a different path" says Ostrander.
After a stint in jail, Mary Prince got out of jail, stopped doing drugs, found a job, won custody of her children, and was doing well. However after she didn't pay her probation fee - she wound up back in jail. Prince says despite how it may look she hasn't committed anymore crimes and is on the right path for herself and more importantly - for her children. "The worst part is that this time I am clean, and I didn't do anything wrong. I'm in jail on a technicality. But I know that me coming in and out of jail and me doing the things that I've done ain't nothing but a cycle in my life. And I know the only way I can keep my kids from ending up anything like me is by breaking this now while their still young. Because if they grow up seeing me use drugs and going in and out of jail then they're going to be doing the same things that I'm doing regardless of what I tell them. It's my actions that speak louder" says Prince.
The good news to Mary's story is that she gets out of jail on Thursday November 3, 2011. She says she wants to go to a rehabilitation center in Cuthbert that will allow her to keep her kids as she gets her life on the right path.