Women prisoners share their storiesPrisoners from the Dakota Women’s Correctional Rehabilitation Center, a women’s prison in southwestern North Dakota, have been sharing their stories with students from the region, focusing on the reality of drug and alcohol abuse.
By: By Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press, The Jamestown Sun
DICKINSON, N.D. — Prisoners from the Dakota Women’s Correctional Rehabilitation Center, a women’s prison in southwestern North Dakota, have been sharing their stories with students from the region, focusing on the reality of drug and alcohol abuse.
More than 250 students were in the audience last week at the West River Community Center in Dickinson, and they applauded after each talk.
Thirty-seven-year old inmate Nicole BearKing’s life centered on alcohol.
BearKing said she started drinking when she was 13 years old and began running away from home.
“My parents were very strict and, of course, I broke every rule there was in my family,” BearKing said. “I wanted to be accepted by the older kids, so I did everything I could to rebel against my parents.”
BearKing said that in her teenage years, she broke into houses and her parents sent her to treatment at the ages of 13, 15 and 17.
“I felt that my parents didn’t want me around because they kept sending me away,” BearKing said. “I rebelled even more.”
BearKing said she received a scholarship to play basketball at Minnesota State University Moorhead, but had to drop out of college due to her drinking within six months.
“I became a drunken bum,” BearKing said. “Suicide entered my mind many times.”
Moving between the Standing Rock Reservation and Bismarck several times, BearKing said she received drunken driving citations. She also stabbed, cut and burned herself.
As an adult, BearKing said she became intoxicated in 2005 and woke up in a jail cell covered in blood, unaware that she had stabbed someone five times.
Now, she says, her life is slowly getting better.
Inmate Heather Hanna said she had problems with drugs and alcohol, which led her down wrong paths.
Hanna said she became an addict in her early teens and it continued into adulthood, causing her to lose jobs.
“One night, we (she and acquaintances) were at a party and everyone was drunk. A guy put a gun to my head and threatened to kill me if I didn’t have sex with him,” Hanna said. “We continued to drink with these guys for three days. The reason why is because they have drugs and alcohol.”
Hanna said she moved with a man to South Carolina after knowing him only a short time because he had access to alcohol and drugs. On the way, the pair stopped and purchased a bottle of alcohol to drink.
Around her 19th birthday, Hanna said she discovered she was pregnant. While she stopped her substance abuse during the time she was pregnant, she said, she resumed shortly after her child was born.
Hanna said she left her baby with family members so she could get drunk, even though she knew it was wrong.
“I did stuff I would have never done if I was sober,” Hanna said.
Hanna said she’s working now to get her life back on track.
Inmate Shannon Vallie said drugs made her feel more confident and energetic. She calls herself a “thief, burglar and drug addict.”
At 19, Vallie said out of boredom she found some of her dad’s sleeping pills and took them, finding getting high was something for her to do.
“I started thinking, why would I pay $20 to go out and get drunk when I could be taking two little pills,” Vallie said. “After that, I would just go to my dad’s medicine cabinet and take painkillers. Not that I need them, but it was something for me to do.”
Vallie said after taking the pills, it got to the point that she needed them, either by buying them, stealing them or going to a doctor and getting them prescribed to her. She said she would mix alcohol and pills as well, which caused her to get into a car accident.
“The adult part of my life — I don’t know anything. All I know is drugs,” Vallie said.
Vallie said she then started using methamphetamine.
“That first day I used meth I was already addicted,” she said. “I needed that more than I needed sleep.”
Using drugs caused her to shrink from around 125 pounds to about 89 pounds, she said.
“When you’re using drugs, you just think about yourself,” Vallie said.
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