Testimony from Anitria Blue, presented at "Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline" on May 10 hosted by Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. and Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean Pierre.
Good Afternoon! My name is Anitria Blue; I live in Huntington with my parents. I was released from prison 11 months ago having done 17.5 years for manslaughter in the first degree. I committed a crime that could have been avoided if I had the knowledge, education and tools necessary to get help. Before my incarceration, I was an aspiring medical doctor completing my B.S. in Biology/Pre-med. I unfortunately got involved with a man who was abusive in many ways, I was your typical “good girl” who went to church, school, work and spent time with family.
So what more could I ask for?
Unfortunately, I had been diagnosed with mental illnesses. Instead of the justice system thoroughly investigating the circumstances that led to my crime, the evidence was underestimated. I became just another black statistic in the justice system. I had no idea what domestic violence was, however. I instinctively knew that what was happening to me was wrong since I suffered abuse during my childhood. Unfortunately, I did not know what to do to protect myself from an almost 300 lb. man so I executed a learned behavior- violence! Which lead to 20 years in prison and five years post supervision. I struggled inconsistently with my mental illness and the stigma of it, my adoption and the circumstance surrounding it, and a plethora of other fears that I believe no child should experience. I had been exposed to a life that many parents want for their child, I wanted better for myself, so I did everything within my power to attain as much as I could in order to not become a recidivist, or repeat offender. I wanted to make my family proud of my growth and change and to have a better quality of life while taking accountability for my crime.
Incarceration was one of the most daunting experiences in my life, but I did what many women struggle to achieve, taking what I learned and applying it to the present while preparing for a future of health, happiness, and prosperity. I completed programs mandated by the state. I worked and got involved in whatever programs I was allowed to take part in. I took advantage of the college program where I received my associate's and bachelor's degrees. I participated in extracurricular activities such as RIA, praise dancing, step team, youth programs, and other various organizations.
Nonetheless, with my degree in sociology, I realized that the world was much larger than I could ever imagine and I became passionate about becoming an asset in society instead of a liability. That’s when I knew that reaching out, giving back, and helping others was my purpose in life. It meant not only showing personal growth and change, but leaving a legacy that means no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done, positive change is always possible with the right resources.
So, to say the least, I believe some essential tools in preventing incarceration, providing rehabilitation while incarcerated, and or successful acclimating in society after release include, but are not limited to:
A) Quality Education
B) Updated Skills Training
C) Effective Communication Techniques
D) More Transitional Programs such as New Hour’s EMERGE Program
The Emerge Program is fortifying me with the tools for not only personal growth but to lead and advocate for social justice change. It reminds me that no matter my path, I am an intelligent woman who can make a difference in my community and beyond. To lend a hand to those like me, to those who are not like me, and perhaps to those who may want to emulate the better parts of me, it is my life journey, so I must strive to be the best me I can be. EMERGE consistently reminds me to build character, which is essential to making education vital and relevant to our future.
I conclude with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The function of education is to teach one to think intrusively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”