Call Declined: Getting Out

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Leaving prison can be overwhelming. The need to navigate societal and technological changes, rebuild relationships, find employment, and find housing can be disorienting and alienating. And the stigma we place on those who have been incarcerated is significant both in human interaction and in policies that make it hard to secure employment, housing, and reconnect with one’s community.

In this episode, we learn what the process of reentry was like for Aimee and Kamisha. And we learn how they’re using their knowledge, experience, and art to blaze a trail that makes the process easier for other people in similar situations.

Additional Resources:

Court-Issued Fines And Fees Frequently Undermine Health Equity (Kathleen Noonan)

Mass Supervision (Vincent Schiraldi)

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center:

Call Declined is hosted by Melissa Beck and presented by the Sozosei Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Otsuka. The Foundation’s goal is to increase access to mental healthcare in order to eliminate the inappropriate use of jails and prisons for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the United States. Learn more at

The Sozosei Foundation extends special thanks to Aimee Wissman and Kamisha Thomas, visionary artists and co-founders of The Returning Artists Guild whose creativity, resilience, and lived experience inspire us to build a world where mental illness is not a crime. To learn more about the Guild visit

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Please note that this podcast contains mature content, including explicit language and discussions about drug use and other potentially sensitive topics. The views expressed are solely those of the participants and do not reflect the opinions of the Sozosei Foundation, podcast host or sponsors. Listener discretion is advised. This content is intended for mature audiences and is not suitable for all listeners.



DONE – Call Declined – Getting Out

Fri, Dec 08, 2023 1:44PM • 42:19


aimee, prison, jail, parole, feel, day, pay, release, court, life, mom, judicial, people, months, fines, process, artists, years, incarcerated, declined


Kamisha Thomas, Melissa Beck, Aimee Wissman


Melissa Beck  00:00

This podcast contains mature content, including explicit language and discussions about drug use, and other potentially sensitive topics. The views expressed are solely those of the participants and do not reflect the opinions of the Soto safe Foundation, podcast host sponsors. Listener discretion is advised, the content is intended for mature audiences and is not suitable for all listeners. Welcome back to call declined. I’m your host, Melissa Beck. If you haven’t listened to our first two episodes, I recommend you go and do that now. In today’s episode, Kamisha, and Aimee are finally on their way home. When you are getting close to your release date, how are you feeling?


Kamisha Thomas  00:58

I was anxious. I was super anxious.


Melissa Beck  01:02

The process of reentry is its own kind of nightmare.


Kamisha Thomas  01:12

Because my situation was crazy, not any more crazy than, like, say Aimee’s but it’s a lot, it’s a process. It’s a process getting in it’s a process getting out. It’s like, there is no.


Aimee Wissman  01:31

You can’t prepare so many people are like we need to do this reentry thing while people are still inside and prepare them like how are you going to prepare a person to walk back into their life and address the void that you have created? You know, there’s a huge vacuum, and you feel it immediately. And it’s like, you know, in my case, as soon as I get on Facebook, when I get home, here comes my mom and my aunt with all their damn memories of live photos I’ve never seen, you know, that shit hurts. I feel like it’s one of those things that never stopped hurting and that you could have you can’t possibly prepare for because everybody’s life is different. Your kids are going to be different ages, you’re going to have different mothers, you’re going to have different resources, you’re going to be in different cities like.


Kamisha Thomas  02:25

There is like there’s no preparation. That’s the simplest way to put it. You’re anxious you feel inside your body, just all of the anxiety because you have no fucking clue what is going what is about to happen to you, you’re not you’re not prepared at all for the overstimulation of, like sensory overload or anything. It just like, once you do get an ID or bank account, like like, I had some issues with my ID because they spelled my name wrong on this from jump. And it was like, there are so many things like there.


Aimee Wissman  03:01

It’s just about the first time someone asks you, where do you live? What do you do for? What do you do for a living? Oh, you’re why are we just now meeting [..] like, you know, like, now you owe everybody an explanation and you’re like […]


Kamisha Thomas  03:17

I don’t know how about when I take Kahari to the to the hospital, and they’re like, oh, you you can’t consent to have him seen because you’re not his legal guardian, like what do you mean? He has my face? How I’m his mom? Hey, Kahari, what do you call me? Who am I? Your mom? Oh, well, you don’t know the, the outpatient code, so we can’t, I mean why?


Melissa Beck  03:47

At a time when certainty and clarity would really benefit both Aimee  and Kamisha as well as their children who’ve been living without their mothers for quite a few years. The process of getting out was murky at best, there is no use and hoping or dreaming when your ability to make it from confinement to freedom remains 100% out of your control. Did you dream about the future? And I don’t mean like I mean, maybe I mean sleeping dreaming. But I mean it when you were doing time when you were marking that time and the elixir of being in the art therapy and as artists. Would you think about the future? Would you imagine what it could be like when you were out?


Kamisha Thomas  04:35

Definitely, definitely I did quite a bit of visualization because it was a technique that we learned in that 12 Steps program and the visualisation piece for me like being able to actually see it and put myself in the position to feel those emotions in the moment, like that is the only way that I was able to show up every day and do whatever it was that I was assigned to do. What about you, Aimee?


Aimee Wissman  05:13

Yeah, I you know, I don’t think I really knew what it meant to be a working artists. So I can’t say that like, I fully imagined the life I’m living now, and I don’t think I did. And I spent a lot of time imagining what thinking about my daughter, really, and just like thinking about that part of coming home, and kind of staying in that space a lot. But I think there was a part of me that really kind of shut off certain aspects of that just to like, keep it pushing. So much about prison for me was just like forward motion. And so in some ways, I think, in there, it was easier to understand what I needed to do in a day and to do that. Whereas out here, it’s like, there’s so much yeah. And so it’s weird how you can adjust to having so little control over things and the way that impacts you and then to, like, have total control over things, but maybe like none of the resources you need, so I think when you’re doing time you just kind of like you really have to just do it.


Melissa Beck  06:30

Leaving prison can be overwhelming. The sudden shift from a highly structured environment can be disorienting and alienating. There is a need to navigate societal and technological changes, rebuild relationships, find employment and find housing. The stigma we place on those who have been incarcerated is significant, both in human interaction and in policies that make it hard to secure employment, housing and reconnect with one’s community. For those with mental health or substance use disorders, connecting with care can be particularly daunting, reapplying for Medicaid, re enrolling in Medicare, or finding a job with good benefits covering mental health treatment can lead to serious lags and treatment provision, lapses in medication and further risks for poor health and well being outcomes. So let’s go back to it’s getting close to the release state, who got out first?


Aimee Wissman  07:35



Melissa Beck  07:36

But it was the difference of time?


Aimee Wissman  07:39

For six months.


Melissa Beck  07:42

So Amy, maybe then can you tell us what that was, like because you were facing the coming release thing?


Aimee Wissman  07:50

Well, I was supposed to get out right before my daughter started kindergarten. And then I got to court, and they didn’t take me up. And I was like, oh, no, what happened? So like, I guess technically, I needed to serve 74 more days to hit my five year mark. So I got sent back, that was crazy walking back in the unit, like no one ever thought in their lives, they would see me walk back in. And people came through and gave me some closing stuff because I had given everything away. I was out but then I went back into the 74 days, and I got released on a judicial


Melissa Beck  08:30

What does that mean?


Aimee Wissman  08:32

Like a judge approves your early release, and then you have to do probation. And you know, I think you’re just monitored until they decide that, okay, you’re no longer an imminent threat.


Melissa Beck  08:46

It must have been really upsetting to be waiting in that courthouse thinking that you are going to get out for something. And I know this as a mom monumental the first day of kindergarten, and then you just weren’t even called up. You didn’t get to go before the judge. Did anyone come down and say.


Aimee Wissman  09:08

Nope, I called my mom and she told me what, you know, I had a paid attorney that got me that judicial hearing. So she told me what happened. And then I had to wait a couple of days to get back to Britain, you know, like going to jail is miserable, especially after you’ve been in prison. And you’re just like, oh, my God, I cannot go back to this desert island. That is jail, so I went back. And then my eligibility date to be released was on my daughter’s sixth birthday, which was a Friday. So we had asked, could I please come to court on like that Tuesday or something and then wait to be released on that Friday. Judge said no, I had to go to court the following Monday. So that kind of pissed me off to let you know, at that time, I would have done anything to get out. You know, I was ready to go and then I got the judicial release. And I was released to Cincinnati. I was on parole because that was like an inter county situation. And I moved in with my mom for the first year, because I felt like that would be the best thing to do for Olivia, I didn’t want to come in and like, shake up her life too much.


Melissa Beck  10:18

Who picked you up? Like how?


Aimee Wissman  10:21

So after I went to court that day to get released, they sent me back. And then I was in the holding cell for hours. And then they sent me back to the cell. And I was like, oh, I’m not getting out again. Something with the paperwork was messed up. So I was in there, into like, 8pm that night, and it was my mom and my aunt Mel. And I was in this awful purple sweatpants get up that they give you when you leave. And I can remember I came out like on the backside of the jail, and they were like parked kind of far away. And I can remember like running, so get away and stripping them clothes off. And then we had a drive all the way back to Columbus.


Melissa Beck  11:06

Had they brought you a different outfit to change into?


Aimee Wissman  11:09

They had and I think I ended up just taking off the shirt. I didn’t even want to put clean stuff on until I took all I was focused on was when do I can take a shower. I want to use some real smelly good stuff.


Melissa Beck  11:23

Yeah, as you were running from the building to the car. Like what did you like? Did you feel like the air on your face? Take us on that run with you that little jog to the car?


Aimee Wissman  11:34

Yeah, it was cold like an Ohio day it was just like a gray, overcast, cold day. And I can remember thinking that my mom and my aunt looked a lot older. Even though I had seen my mom in visiting. You know, I think it had been a really long day. And it showed and that was kind of that first sense of like, I’m coming back to a different world.


Melissa Beck  12:01

So you drive back, you’re so excited to take a shower, just wash that all off of you . Was Olivia at home when you got to your mom’s house?


Aimee Wissman  12:13

She was there, it was an exciting day. I don’t remember much though. You know, I think in a lot of ways my brain just can’t handle any more memories you know, and I think that’s why like the trauma living in your body piece is so real for me because so much of this I have just like really pushed down and avoided because it’s is as painful as like, happy like a moment like that, like sure it’s happy. But it’s just like, underscored the whole time like this is happening because you were not here, you know.


Melissa Beck  13:26

Aimee, had been in prison for five years, and a lot changed between 2012 and 2017. Her daughter was a baby when she went to Dayton Correctional Institution. And now her daughter was six years old. Aimee had to build her life outside of prison from the ground up. And she needed a community of people who understood what that meant. But her best friend Kamisha was still inside. When you said goodbye to Kamisha since you got out before she did. Do you remember that two members saying goodbye to one another?


Kamisha Thomas  14:01

Might have been at work because I worked outside the gate at the time. So I think I was at work and didn’t get to see her go. But I knew she was leaving because we you know, of course talked.


Aimee Wissman  14:15

I think there was a lot of like, I’m waiting on you you’re right behind me. And I feel like Kamisha still felt like maybe like, yeah, maybe not a little bit you know.


Melissa Beck  14:27

Did you talk at all as release date came about how the power of art was going to come to your lives after you were outside?


Aimee Wissman  14:38

While we were working on a feature script, you see, we’re still working on that possibly, but uh, it’s just majorly backburner and but I think that was our first that was through films because we had had the pins to pictures experience and it seemed like okay, let’s make more films. Let’s write this feature so we can get this Netflix series. So if people are listening the feature is active, and I know how it ends and how the Netflix begins so yeah, I think we were doing a lot of that talking but I, you’re so like, I don’t want to say afraid, but you don’t believe you’re going home until you’re home. You know? And, you know, most of what you say is speculation. And you know that, and you’re like, forced to speculate anyway, there’s a part of you that doubts, I think, even yourself, you know, because you just don’t know what you’re walking into.


Melissa Beck  15:33

Mm hmm. When you were out, you mentioned that there was still going to be some kind of supervision, parole. So how many days were you out before you had to like see a parole officer?


Aimee Wissman  15:46

The same day, so as soon as you got out of jail, you got to go check in at parole, and then took a little while for them to assign me to a parole officer in Delaware County. When she first came to do her home visit. I wasn’t there and my sister was and she really scared my sister. You know, I don’t think she’d ever experienced like, basically a marshal coming to her door. But she was not nice. But she was not evil. And I did two and a half years of parole. And I would go in and like take drug tests and just kind of like check in. But I had a job the whole time I was in school I was, you know, I was not a problem client so I kind of just skated through.


Melissa Beck  16:32

Aimee, a thought on the reentry piece and parole, were there any fines or fees that you had to pay tell, tell our listeners a little bit about that because I think folks don’t really understand that.


Aimee Wissman  16:43

Man, I owed restitution for those burglaries, which was a couple, a couple $1,000. And then I owed no restitution on the robbery because we didn’t get away and it was only like $100 anyway, so I just owe like a few $1,000 in that. And then I had some court fines and costs. And then there’s the cost of supervision. So it was like $30 a month or something like that, or maybe was like $50 a month, it’s some kind of monthly supervision thing and so for me to get off of parole that two and a half years instead of five years, part of the reason why it happened is that I had paid the whole five years worth of supervision fees. So you can kind of like pay off of it and kind of pay to play.


Melissa Beck  17:27

So you, you have to pay to be supervised by the government.


Aimee Wissman  17:32

Yes, because somehow you are, you know, being supported through the I don’t know, like I just it’s another way they create a criminal class and keep you in it.


Melissa Beck  17:42

What were you told about the ramifications for not paying those fines?


Aimee Wissman  17:47

I mean, because it’s like you so when you’re on for the scary part about a judicial is that if you reoffend while you’re on parole? That original sentence is still hanging out. So what happens is they can send you back for up to half of your time on that original case, plus whatever they want to give you for this new infraction. So you’re definitely motivated to not have interaction with law enforcement because, it, you know, half of my time would have been four years. So any kind of thing that would have happened to me, I would have probably started with at least four years going back, so like, no, thank you.


Melissa Beck  18:30

Fines and fees posed a significant barrier to successful reentry. They often accrue as Aimee describes during incarceration, probation, parole, and in any event continue after release. This debt can hinder access to housing, jobs and education, creating a cycle of instability that can be damaging, and even lead to re incarceration. Equally as damaging is that fines and fees can impact one’s ability to access health care, creating barriers to wellness that can likewise push one back into the criminal legal system. The choice between paying fines and fees to ensure one’s freedom or paying a copay seems like a no brainer. Who wouldn’t pay to stay out of prison? Some leading reformers are now advocating for more rehabilitative services during parole and probation. This is a shift away from surveillance and from the punitive consequences that can follow. But besides, you know, having a drug test did parole do like did they offer services?


Aimee Wissman  19:41

I don’t know, I wouldn’t have wanted them, I don’t recall them offering me anything but you have to have you have to be employed. And you they have to know your address and that that’s an acceptable place like my stepdad had to get rid of his shotguns or whatever when I came.


Melissa Beck  19:54

Right, what do you wish you’d been available? Could anything have been available?


Aimee Wissman  20:00

Money, honestly, I feel like this is another one of those times where I feel like just money can solve this problem, but you just have to give it to people and just if they fuck up with it, like, so be it, a lot of people are gonna buy the car that they need, or like, put the deposit down on having some place to live that’s safe or, you know, I feel like the majority of people just really use an influx of cash when they get out and because, you know, like the birth certificate cost $50, or like, there’s so many, like, stupid things that if you’re just not stressed out about not having enough money for all of those things, then maybe you have an opportunity to try to like, process what is going on and make healthy decisions.


Melissa Beck  20:46

And you mentioned you were in school as well.


Aimee Wissman  20:50

Yes, so when I came home, you know, I thought my parents would just give me custody of my child back but that was not their intention. And so they set up this expectation so one of the things that my mom has been on my ass about my whole life is this college degree. And so often on I kept trying to go back to college, on her account. I never wanted to degree ever, but so the expectation was if you get your bachelor’s degree will give you custody back. So I, of course, I’m like, let’s go I had to finish my associates, because I wasn’t able to take as many classes inside. So did that first, and then I transferred to Ohio University and got my bachelor there. And when I got my degree, they said that they had never made that arrangement with me, and then I had fantasize to that. And that the reason I shouldn’t have custody now is that they had better health insurance than me, which is true. And there’s a part of me that thought I needed that. But that would have been for me, I think and maybe I don’t need that, you know, like, I’m not going to let you guys like, have me in this chokehold where I feel like less than and if it makes parent teacher conferences awkward until the child graduates and I guess that’s what it is.


Melissa Beck  22:11

And Kamisha, your time is going by and coming up for your release. So let’s go back to you for a moment. How are you feeling as the release state approaches and you remarked that your process was really different than Aimee? Take us through it.


Kamisha Thomas  22:30

So I was I applied for a judicial release on my own by myself, and it was denied.


Melissa Beck  22:39

How did you do that? I’m sorry, can you just take us through? Like, what does that mean, you apply, you had to write something.


Kamisha Thomas  22:44

You get a judicial packet from the library, and it has all of the information. It’s basically a plug, plug and chug type thing. You can add whatever documents you might have access to like your certificates of achievement while you were incarcerated and a letter, you know, your own like statement letter or whatever. And you send that through the mail room to the franklin county courts in my situation, because my county commit was was Franklin and you wait for a response. And my response was denied, so everybody’s like, okay, so you just need a lawyer to file it. So I was fortunate enough to get David Singleton of the Ohio justice and Policy Center. And I basically wrote my judicial, they filed it, made a few very few adjustments, and I was given a court date. And once you get a court date for Franklin County, if you get a court date, you’re going home, there’s just no question about it. My court date was January 11. That is the day after my birthday.


Melissa Beck  24:04

And Kamisha what year?


Kamisha Thomas  24:05

January 11 2018. So I left prison on my birthday, sounds good, right?


Melissa Beck  24:12



Kamisha Thomas  24:13

Wrong, Melissa I went to the fucking county back to the county jail. Okay, so you’re at at the county you’re in this scrub outfit now and you’re back in this open bay. You don’t have your cell it’s jail it’s not prison right, you on’t want to be there like Aimee said after being in prison jail, is not the place kill me now we just want die.


Melissa Beck  24:46

Kamisha, this is the big room you describe to us before with the 10 bunk bed, and it’s really loud, it’s cold.


Kamisha Thomas  24:54

And I’m bleeding profusely because of the period. So it was a really ugly time. And then I go to court, and I did not go in front of the judge, my lawyer had sent me a J PE, email, that is the communication system within institutions telling me that the court date had been pushed back to February 8 a month, because I never had a PSI. Go figure, remind us a psi pre sentencing investigation. And instead of getting directly out of jail at the point, so I’m in jail for a month. And then I had to wait again, to leave jail because they were not sending me home, they were sending me to CBCF, the community based correctional facility, so I had to do six months in cbcf before I would get released, actually from any type of institution, CBCF sounds like what people call a halfway house. It is not a halfway house, community based Correctional Facility is a jail. It’s a minimum security jail you have it’s basically T unit on steroids, it’s just a huge T unit two unit was the reintegration unit. So you get to wear jeans and their T shirt, the uniform is a T shirt, a colored t shirt based on whichever pod you’re in. And you can wear your own jeans or sweatpants and sneakers and things like that. You can have your own you can have your people bring you toiletries and undergarments. You could have a wire bra, you know, so CBCF was different. And they they had better food, more larger portions and so, and you could do like programming. So anyway, I get to CBCF, after two weeks of waiting after the court date two weeks after the court date is when I got to go to CBCF because I had to wait on beds.


Kamisha Thomas  24:55

Right, so can you why did you go to this other facility?


Aimee Wissman  25:36

Cause she’s a black woman, I think.


Kamisha Thomas  25:42

Yeah, because I am because.


Kamisha Thomas  25:46

Honestly, it just felt like an extra hoop. Like she never had a drug problem. Why is she going through this additional CBT? Like, we haven’t done enough of this shit inside. Like there’s nothing they’re offering there that they’re not offering in prison. There’s nothing in prison that we didn’t do, or that you didn’t do specifically, like, why else was it other than she’s a black woman? I mean, that was my opinion, I was like, this is some horseshit if I’ve ever seen it.


Kamisha Thomas  27:55

Yeah, it that’s the only thing that I can come up with. It just wouldn’t was nonsensical the whole process from start to finish, you know what I’m saying that was so nonsensical, then I get to cbcf. Now, remember, I was supposed to do six months, well, they’re like, they do my own RAs, they do another one, RAS again, that’s the your security security threat security level classification type tool that they use to say whether or not I’m still a menace to society. My overall score was so low, that they’re like, we’re getting you out of here in three months.


Melissa Beck  28:37

Great so you’re like, how about three days?


Kamisha Thomas  28:39

Right? Yeah, I wanted to just and so from there, you can’t just get released from CBCF into the world, you have to go to a halfway house. So now is the point where I’m like, right right, so now I have to go to a halfway house. So I did what, seven or eight months in the halfway house too long.


Melissa Beck  29:40

At this point, I want to stop and reflect for a moment on how very different three entry process was for Aimee and for Kamisha to women who served similar amounts of time in prison, and the hoops they had to jump through to get clear of the system were wildly different. Both women had unexpected delays in their release, and were stuck for months after they thought they’d go home. But while Aimee was free and dealing with parole, which is bad enough, camicia was sent to jail than another jail, and then into a halfway house for reasons that were most generously put unclear. It goes back to what Aimee and Kamisha were just saying at the top of the episode, it’s really impossible to predict or to prepare yourself for what’s going to happen next in the process of re entry. But Kamisha, and Aimee found that there is a key that can really help a person get through these difficult months and years of transitioning to freedom, a community of people who’ve already blazed the trail and can relate directly to how you feel. What about the first time you saw one another? After Kamisha got out?


Kamisha Thomas  30:53

Oh, Aimee came to pick me up and Jesse’s from Jessie’s world she hit this lady’s car.


Kamisha Thomas  31:02

The case manager.


Kamisha Thomas  31:03

Yeah, the top dog and justice work.


Aimee Wissman  31:06

Because I mean, I haven’t been out that long either. And just my energy was all over the place, yeah.


Melissa Beck  31:12

Are you trying to parallel park?


Aimee Wissman  31:17

Didn’t have a backup cam, which are you know, I have learned to love a backup cam. I’ll say that about my driving, but um, yeah, sure to hit that lady’s car. Then I had to go in and like, it was just like, awkward interaction because of that and then we like, I was like, let’s get out of here. And I tried to put the music on. I was like, oh, we finally get to ride around and listen to, you know, we finally get to ride around and listen to music and, and Kamisha was like, way overstimulated. She was like, can you cut that shit off please? that I’m like, what? Like, why?


Melissa Beck  31:51

Right? Because how long have you been out at this point?


Aimee Wissman  31:53

Probably about six months, yeah.


Melissa Beck  31:55

What was it like the first moment you to see each other not at DCI like.


Kamisha Thomas  32:01

We were geeked and we’re geeked, we were so stoked oh, my goodness like what? And first of all, let me just start by saying that us being friends becoming friends and having the relationship that we have was a total shock to both of us.


Melissa Beck  32:19

Tell me more.


Kamisha Thomas  32:20

Because we didn’t, I mean, especially after prison, because you know, like after words people get out, they forget about you know, not Aimee, she was there she was sending me birthday cards and postcards and pictures and letters. Like even when I was still at DCI when I was in cbcf, she kept me straight, she brought me everything that I needed, you know what I’m saying? We were doing some.


Aimee Wissman  32:48

You were not gonna stop the shenanigans, it was just like, let her go. So we can go with shanann.


Melissa Beck  32:59

Awesome, this kind of friendship and love is so important for everyone. But especially for people navigating reentry, and Kamisha, and Aimee are working hard these days to get resources and community support to other artists who’ve been in prison, as well as those who are still inside. But the returning artists guild wasn’t there for them, because they still had to build it. And it’s not yet there for many people who are impacted by incarceration. So before we go, I wanted to ask them if they saw opportunities in the old system, the system that can find them both for many years that could have led to better outcomes.


Aimee Wissman  33:39

Well, I qualified for something called Sammy court, which is like a substance abuse and mental illness special docket where they have a focus on not incarcerating individuals and getting them access to rehab or whatever they need. But again, because it was like election year vibes, or, you know, who really knows, for whatever reason, the judge totally ignored that. And I think it would have been just as effective for me, you know, there is a part of me that understands that I was on a self destructive path that only had prison or death left for me as options. But the impact that had like on my relationship with live and stuff, like I’ll never be able to repair the damage done by prison. And as a young mother, I would imagine any, any solutions that allowed me to continue to be a part of Olivia’s life outside of visiting home, you know.


Melissa Beck  34:41

Yeah, there’s you know, at this point, I think, been a lot of documentation of the realities of exactly what you’re saying, AImee and the profound and extreme damage that incarceration does to families. Children and parents, parents and parents, you know, grandparents, it is an explosion inside of a family system. And I think that’s important because it sets up intergenerational damage as well and really short circuit so Kamisha, let’s go back to when everything was taken from the house when you and the kids were sleeping, and thank goodness weren’t harmed, but then you wake and the all all of your supplies for your new business are gone. You feel trapped, there’s no other option that you can identify. What did you need then?


Kamisha Thomas  35:44

Money, quite simple, plain and simple. I needed I had to pay a deductible or a deposit to get my phone back. So that took away from money that I was going to spend on groceries or rent, I needed money.


Melissa Beck  35:58

Was there any interaction with the police when you call them to report it about victim services or?


Kamisha Thomas  36:06

Oh, no, no, no, not at all. They like, gave me a card and walked away. Like it’s like a generic ask card with one phone number on it, like not even any words, like, like, what is this? I don’t even know what this is, didn’t say your report number, anything like that. Just like some there’s no, you know, a recommendation to get a security camera, I did get a recommendation from the police to get a security camera.


Melissa Beck  36:39

Draw that differently Kamisha, if you were in charge of creating the blueprint for your future, at that moment, what could have happened?


Kamisha Thomas  36:47

I could have been informed, if the person had been caught, I could have maybe possibly recovered my items without having to, you know, pay tons of money I could have possibly been provided some type of service a phone number to call for immediate help, you know, like, with for sure resources, right? Like, we know that this has been taken from you and you don’t have any way to now feed your kids because you got to pay for these deductibles and whatnot. So here’s some emergency emergency assistance, I guess.


Melissa Beck  37:34

Right and it’s interesting, I think part of what we want to leave listeners with is a sense that we really do need to build a future with different alternatives that are actually accessible. Different states have victim services programs, but it’s incumbent upon somebody to inform whomever these are, this is what’s available, here’s how you can get it. We’re here to help and I think that oftentimes, culturally, we’re in settings where we elevate public safety, individualization and barriers. It’s like this continued theme of invisible, inaccessible resources. And then to get a resource is the steep mountain that you have to climb.


Kamisha Thomas  38:23

You have to be victimized first, right? Like, like I said, like to go to jail, gotta go to jail, you got to be robbed, you have to get evicted. You have to get like, you know, have to hit voluntarily committed.


Melissa Beck  38:36

Right well, it’s like even me thinking about the Sami program. Why does it take a court system to get to care?


Aimee Wissman  38:46

Mm hmm. I mean, anyone who was looking at my life at that time, would have been like, this is a hot mess, it’s kind of no wonder that this girl, you know, is out of control, and any access to any kind of holistic support at all would have probably been life changing. You know, I had the willingness to be clean I didn’t need to be confined like that, I just needed safety.


Melissa Beck  39:17

Building a world where people get help when they need it. And where mental illness is not a crime requires us to think well beyond what happens when people are in a courtroom or a jail or a prison. A better system needs to provide real support and accessible evidence based high quality health care to people before they are facing any criminal charge. And if someone is incarcerated, there needs to be real support to help them after they are released. Next time on called declined Kamisha and Aimee get to work building the support system they wish they’d had. We’re going to learn all about the returning artists guild, how they’re fighting mass in carseration and building a community of artists, one person at a time. The next episode is our last in the series. You don’t want to miss it.


Aimee Wissman  40:11

Maybe there’s this moment happening where the public is starting to pay attention and appreciate these artists and how you know, I’m starting to ask like where will where are the black women and where where are the women in general? And you know, why is it New York, New York, New York, you know?


CREDITS  40:42

Call Declined is the production of Lemonada Media in partnership with the Sozosei Foundation. I’m your host Melissa Beck. […] is our producer. Noah Smith is our audio engineer. Montez Mickens is our recording engineer. Music by Xander Singh. Story editing by Jackie Danziger. Additional support from Karen Powell, Don Gunderson Taylor and Maggie Croushore . Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Bazar and Dr. Cathy Fay at the cutting center for the history of psychology. Call Declined as presented by the Sozosei Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Otsuka the foundation’s goal is to increase access to mental health care in order to eliminate the inappropriate use of jails and prisons for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the United States. Learn more at The Sozosei Foundation extends special thanks to Aimee Wissman and Kamisha Thomas, visionary artists and the cofounders of the returning artists guild, whose creativity resilience and lift experience inspire us to build a world where mental illness is not a crime. To learn more about the guild, visit Follow Call Declined wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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