Gabriela Bulisova | Time Zone

Time Zone is a multimedia project about Lashawna Etheridge-Bey, a 39-year-old resident of Washington, DC, who spent half of her life in prison for a double murder and was paroled in December 2011. The project, currently in progress, uses video, photography, and sound to focus on Lashawna’s personal transformation while in prison, her difficult yet highly successful reentry into society, and the conflicts that remain within herself and with family members. This highly personal account, to be achieved by intensively following Lashawna for more than a year, moves beyond stigma and cliché, achieving a deeper awareness of the difficult issues surrounding incarceration and reentry.

The subjects of imprisonment and its aftermath are among the most important and overlooked topics in America today. With more than one million women behind bars or under the control of the criminal justice system, women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population.

The United States, with 7.1 million people, or 1 in 33 adults, under the supervision of correctional authorities, has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In Washington, D.C., the numbers are even higher. An estimated 60,000 people, or approximately 10 percent of the total population, have criminal records, and about 8,000 of them return to the city each year after serving sentences in prison or jail.

“I was one of the worst people you would probably ever meet,” says Lashawna of her life when she was nineteen. While Lashawna’s crime, the murder of two women who were involved in a dispute outside her home, was violent and irreversible, Lashawna worked hard to transform her life in prison. She turned to Islam, immersed herself in classes, worked out intensively, and did everything possible to become a different person. Given her good behavior, she was paroled at her first hearing.
For many former prisoners, the basic tasks that face them upon release – getting housing, a job, and an education – become overwhelming obstacles. Lashawna’s successful reentry has made her a role model for other ex-offenders. She quickly obtained housing, found a full time job, and continued her college education. “Right now I am who I have always been, who I was supposed to become,” she declares.

However, the less perceptible currents of her life – rebuilding relationship with her family, and living with and answering for her past – have gone less smoothly. LaShawna’s children were 10 months and 3 years old when she went to prison. They are now 20 and 22. “I think those relationships are severely damaged” Lashawna says. Most importantly, Lashawna struggles constantly with the question of whether she will be able to forgive herself. “People say you did your time, you paid your debt, and you deserve to forgive yourself. But is there really a debt that you can pay?”


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4 Responses to Gabriela Bulisova | Time Zone

  1. Ruth Claire 8 March 2013 at 2:52 am #

    Prison inmates, nursing home residents and the homeless are among the most forgotten people. Thank you, Gabriela, for helping to humanize a former inmate reentering society. It would be interesting to know how she managed to find housing, a job and continue her education. Did she have some connections and support? There was a story this week in the Washington Post about a former inmate who has successfully reentered society. These people can be role models. Well done!

  2. Nadirah Aasim 8 March 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Things are hard once women return from prison, but if the plan is being followed, Allah will have the final say. The blessings that has been bestowed upon us by Allah (SWT) are endless. Just let Lashawna know that once she took her Shahada, all sins were erased. Keep you head up and know that Allah (SWT) has the final say. This was inspirning for a muslim who knows and understands the same struggles as Lashawana.

  3. Gabriela Bulisova 12 March 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    Thank you very much for your encouraging and thoughtful comments — I very much appreciate you viewing the project and taking the time to reply.

    Dear Ruth — thank you, yes, I did read the article and was very inspired by it/by the gentlemen and his personal journey. Regarding Lashawna and her successful reentry, I will ask her to reply directly and share some of the resources she received help from.

    Dear Nadira — I will also let Lashawna reply to your comment. I am certain she very much appreciates your support and understanding.

    Thank you again. With kind regards,

  4. Kazi Riasat Alve 15 May 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    heart touching story…… i love the way of execution and harmony of the story!

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