Life On The Outside
Episode 11: Getting out of prison isn’t easy. In the two months since her release, Deven’s been busy: getting IDs, applying for jobs and taking care of her daughter. We caught up with her a few weeks after she left Alabama to see how things were going and what she hopes people will take away from her story.
- If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, use a safe computer and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233. You can also search for a local domestic violence shelter at www.domesticshelters.org/.
- If you have experienced sexual assault and need support, visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) at www.rainn.org or call 1-800-656-HOPE
- Have questions about consent? Take a look at this guide from RAINN at www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent
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Liz Flock, Gloria Riviera, Deven
Liz Flock 00:57
This is Blind Plea, I’m your host, Liz Flock. Deven was released from prison on May 23 2023. She’s back in Baltimore now living with her family. And so I gave her a call in early June, less than a month after her release to talk about how things were going. She told me how hard she’s been working to get her life back on track. The reality is it’s not easy. Readjusting has been exhausting. There are a million things to get set up after you leave prison. From getting new IDs to trying to find work. Deven has been applying for lots of jobs. She wants to be fully independent as soon as she can. She’s also set up a GoFundMe account to help her get back on her feet. Her goal is to secure a job, get an apartment, put a down payment on a car and start paying for therapy and her daughter’s schooling, basically rebuild her life. But I’ll let Deven tell you more. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.
Liz Flock 02:08
Oh my God, hi.
Liz Flock 02:11
It’s nice to see you.
It’s nice to see you. How are you feeling?
Liz Flock 02:17
I’m okay. I’m so I’ll show you my book really quick. I am pregnant. It does actually doesn’t look like that much from there. But it feels like I feel like a house.
Yeah, yeah, that’s gonna happend efinitely.
Liz Flock 02:33
Yeah. How are you feeling? How is today Ven?
It was all right, you know, my stepmom brought me to Pennsylvania. We went to the Dutch market. And she took me to like the Walmart and stuff like that up there because it’s nicer. Yeah, I mean, most days, I’m just sitting around waiting for the come home.
Liz Flock 02:55
That makes sense. I was trying to imagine like you on your first night home? How was it? Because like, I remember I talked to you and you got on that flight after they like, dramatically cut off your ankle monitor. And then you like, how was it being on the plane and then getting off and seeing everyone like, what was that like?
It’s kind of weird, because like, I kind of just, I didn’t let it like shock me, I kind of just was like, okay, this is what I have to do, like, I have to get on this plane, I have to take this trip, then I have to get off and I have to find these, you know, I have to you know, just get back to life. Like, I still haven’t processed anything. I still haven’t processed anything because I just get back to life. Like, I just feel like right now I don’t have time to do that, you know, which I know isn’t healthy, but I can’t really do anything else about it. Because I have to get you know, more just to to live more just to my parents, like I don’t really have time for me. And I’m just trying to become independent. That’s really like my, that’s the only thing because once I’m independent and once I can completely rely on myself and I don’t need anybody. And that’s been like, what I had in my mind even before I left prison. Like I kept thinking to myself, okay, well this is what I need to do when I leave this is what I need to do like I think that that’s what’s keeping me from processing is like my drive that I have for myself that I need to do these things in order to have the things that I want into like you know, so I can finally be like, okay, well, yeah, I went through this thing and I did this thing and I had to sit down for a while but I’m okay and look at me now like I’m not I’m not broken or anything, I’m just I just hurt a little bit but I’m not broken.
Liz Flock 04:56
Yeah, what do you feel like you would want people to know about like re entry after being in prison or jail?
It, it’s more or less like, reentry, for me personally, reentry is all about yourself. And sometimes you have to be a little selfish when it comes to that because especially if you have kids, because you have to look at the bigger picture. For me, it’s like I have to get right and I have to do things for myself. And I think mental health is a big deal too like, I’m getting Medicaid, just so I could go see a mental health doctor, like, that’s my main focus. Because there’s things out here in the world that you don’t have to deal with in there. And so my biggest thing is like, you you get as much as you put into it, you have to want it. And you have to help yourself, and you can’t have too much pride, or even shame, really, you have to just do what you have to do find something, make it your motivation. And hold on to it because that’s what you need, you need motivation. .
Liz Flock 06:12
Yeah, so you mentioned like Medicaid, like, what are the all the things like, can you list off, like all the things you had to do when you got out like, just driver’s license, you know, whatever.
I was, I, I’ve been gone for so long so everything, I had to start over with everything, and so I had to file for my social security card, which I did online. I’m waiting on my birth certificate, which Sheila said she found the copy, but I don’t know if she’s mailed it out yeah, that’s another thing. Driver’s license, and then getting Medicaid, just paperwork, everything’s online now. But they just asked me a bunch of questions, and then I filed for food stamps, because I don’t have any income and I want to help my parents out because they’ve been spending a lot of money on her food and stuff like that. And so I want to be able to help them you know, give back what they’ve given her. And then just like getting like an ID like I have to get an ID and I’ve been waiting on you know, they they need your they need other identification cards, so I have to go soon because my prison one from Tutwiler expire soon. And then you need your social security. And then you need two proofs of residency. And that’s why I said you have to find like a motivation. You have to find a like a reason because and you have to want to do it because a lot of this stuff can be discouraging, because it’s just you feel like it’s just so much. And I was talking to my friend Nisha, she, she was at ATF for me she was at the annex with me. She was telling me she’s like, even though we’ve only been out for a couple of weeks, it feels like we’ve been out for a year. And like, I know, like, I feel like I’ve been out for a long time. I feel like I have done nothing. And she was we were talking about that. So like that’s an anxiety for I’m sure not just for the both of us. I’m sure that’s an anxiety for a lot of people who want to prove that they can do it, and you just get out and you’re like, I haven’t done this and I don’t have that and it’s been it’s been like almost and they’re like Deven like I’ve had you know, people told me like it’s only been two weeks like my someones had to tell me Deven like it’s only been like two weeks you’ve only been out so you have to like, give yourself a break. You need to chill out and I’m like, but it’s not fast enough it’s not working it’s not, I need a job, I need this I need that and it’s like just chill.
Gloria Riviera 10:16
How’s it felt to be like a mom after so long?
It kind of felt like I was never gone in a way like because she’s so she’s my kid. She’s my baby, you know? And it was emotional for me. Because I was like, well, now I get to be mommy again. But at the same time, it was like, okay, well, like I never stopped being mommy. I just wasn’t there for a little while.
Liz Flock 11:22
Yeah, was she like excited to see you or was she just like, whoa, this is crazy or like, what was her reaction?
Like, at first at night, when I that night that I like pretty much woke her up, she was kind of like, I think I know you but like, the next day, it was kind of it wasn’t really that big of a deal but as it as she got more and more used to me now she’s just very, she’s like, she’s a love bug like, she’ll sit on my lap and she’ll you know, hug me and give me kisses and stuff like that. So yeah, so I think like, now that she’s recognizing me as mommy. She’s way like, she’s very affectionate towards me so.
Liz Flock 12:09
Are you? Are you going to eventually try to gain custody?
Yes, um, that’s like a process but really, all I have to do is show that I’m independent, and I can take care of her independently. And I guess that’s why I’m pushing myself so hard, because I want to have a job and I want to be able to save up some money so that way, and apartment, you know, I can I mean, the cost of living here is kind of high. But you know, you can always you can find the right place. And so I’m gonna look for the right place and get us a two bedroom and try to, you know, be on my own.
Liz Flock 12:48
Do you feel like, on top of all that, like people have expectations of you?
Um, yeah, I mean, I think I’m the hardest on myself. Because everyone else is like, you know, well, not everyone, but my stepmom, my aunt’s my sister, they’re like, you know, you’re doing you’re doing really well. You’re trying really hard, you’re applying to these places, you’re, you know, you’re gung ho about making a resume filling out applications, you you want to do something, it’s not like you’re just sitting around, and you’re just playing on your phone. And on top of that, like, I’m still mom, and I’m still doing all this other, you know, I’m trying to, you know, get other things set up for myself. And I mean, I really want to write and I really, you know, and, um, but I was like, I don’t have time for that. It’s like, that’s, that’s in my head. You know, I don’t have time for that. But, um, as far as pressure, I think there are expectations, I think that I’m, I’m my worst critic, and I think I’m my worst like me when it comes to that, because I think that, yeah, they expect me to do things, but they also know where I’ve been, it’s different if you like, you know, you just messed up or you’re just not doing what you’re supposed to be doing. And your parents take you in because you don’t have no other place to go. And it’s like, well, you have two months or your are you getting kicked out? It’s like no, take your time because we know where you’ve just come from. And I don’t want to take my time to do it. I want everything that I want and I want it right now so I don’t want to wait.
Liz Flock 14:31
Where have you applied? Like what are the what are the jobs?
Ah, it’s like the grocery store giant it all these there’s like a America’s best value of the little motel hotel thing. Um, there’s like a there’s a gas station where they need like a clerk and like, places like that, like I’ve been trying to just to just to go walking distance, you know, or if I do have to ask for a ride, it’s not but like 10 minutes in the car yeah so, um.
Liz Flock 15:07
Ultimately, in terms of jobs, like, what do you call, because of course, right now you’re gonna get a job that’s close and take your time and settle in but like, down the road, are you still feeling like you want to be an advocate or write a book or be a mechanic or like what’s on your mind?
I’ve, well, I really, really want to be an advocate, and I want to be a writer and my stepmom thinks I should be a public speaker. I don’t know about all that. I love to talk about things. But getting out there and actually talking and having people see me like that. That’s, that’s kind of daunting. But I mean, like, I would do it, I would just be really nervous the first few times. Um, but I would love that, like, that’s one of my like, that’s like a goal, like I know, at first, I was all about diesel mechanics. And I really wanted to do that, because it’s something different, and I was so interested in it, but now it’s like, I feel like I’m kind of tugged more towards being an advocate being the voice for people talking about things that people don’t talk about, because people just don’t talk about it they just don’t or they make it seem glamorous, and put it in movies that you know, the woman fights back and she wins and there’s no repercussions for fighting back or anything like that, like it’s just like a Jennifer Lopez glamour and stuff kind of thing and it’s not like that, it’s really not your it when you’re in actual, domestic violent relationship like, your boyfriend is not just gonna be like, okay, you took self defense classes, and now you’re, you’re gonna like what brought me like, no, they’re gonna, they’re gonna be way worse than that so and I want and I also want the people who are in those relationships or who have been in those relationships to understand that someone is you they’re not alone, that are and then they shouldn’t feel like they’re less than or that they’re stupid, because that’s what I I mean, I still kind of kicked myself in and feel that kind of way but, um, I just want to make the world more aware of the problem, and how it ties into so many things it’s not just, it’s not black and white at all, it’s really not. I know, there’s a lot of times I could have left or should have left and looking back on it now, I’m like, well, dang, I wish I had of course, but I don’t know, I was just too ashamed to admit that. I had messed up and I messed up in a big way. So I kinda let that drive me to stay.
Liz Flock 18:10
Yeah, shame is like such a powerful emotion.
Gloria Riviera 18:26
I want to ask, have you listened to the podcast at all? Why or why not?
I listened to the trailer and I listened, and I heard my voice on the 911 call. And I freaked out and I had a hole. And I just don’t know if I’m ready to do it honestly like to hear my own voice and to hear my story like that. I think it’ll make it too real. I really do, and right now, I just can’t. I’ve already like, I’ve desensitized myself so much that if I sit here, and I listen to my story, and I listen to all the things that I went through and listen to, you know, my parents and my aunts and my sister, like, I think I lose my mind. I really do, and I don’t want to do that right now. Just maybe when I’m, when I’m established, and I can have a breakdown for just a second and not feel like I’ve completely spiraled out of control, then maybe I will.
Liz Flock 21:08
Yeah, that makes sense. Has anyone else like in your friends or family? Listen, I’ve given you feedback or.
Yeah, I’ve had one friend who actually was in Shelby County jail with me. She said she listened to it. And she really enjoyed it. She said, It’s crazy to hear you on there. Because I just she doesn’t know me as like this victim kind of person. Because I’ve never been that way. She’s but she said that it was she really enjoyed listening to it. You know, as far as like hearing my story, because I know, I don’t really like break it down for anybody. I’m like, I just I just tell people, I had a really mean boyfriend, and I got tired of him being mean. And that’s what I tell people.
Liz Flock 21:57
Yeah, are you glad that you participated? Or how do you feel about it at this point?
Yeah, like, I mean, I think it was therapeutic for me. And I think that it helped me and helped me cope while I was locked up, and it gave me something to do and to strive for and it also opened up opportunities for me to do what I also want to do, which is advocate and like, write and I mean, I guess public speak I don’t I don’t know about but I mean eventually, yeah, I would like to do that. I just have to take take a confidence boost pill or something, there’s got to be something. Take some classes on calm self confidence, I guess. I don’t know. But um, yeah, I’m really glad and I got to meet you. And so yes, that’s like, that’s the cherry on top so.
Liz Flock 23:07
I can’t wait to come to Baltimore as soon as I’m allowed to travel again, um, as soon as I push out this damn baby.
Liz Flock 23:21
Okay, one other thing I want to ask you is like in the podcast, we talked about breaking cycles, and like the importance of breaking generational cycles of like, violence and trauma and like, do you feel like you’re doing that in any way now.
Um, the real problem that I know, my dad, and me and my sister are problem, and my mom, like, there was addiction. And I think that that had a lot to do with decisions that I made and decisions that people let me make, if that makes sense. And, um, but again, like, I think that I’m so far away from that mentality now, like, my whole mentality is different, you know, and I has a lot to do with that. But um, I think my mentality is just so much different now, because of the things that I’ve seen and the things that led me to this point. So I think like, I would just breaking that curse. I think that like, I’ve already done that, because I just don’t even I don’t even have it in me to, to put through what even a little bit of what I went through when I was her age, and get and then the older she gets, the more I’m gonna just be like, no, that’s just not how this works.
Liz Flock 24:52
I mean, how do you look back on like the person you were before? When maybe, you know, alcoholism was present in your life and versus like now who you are with a totally different mindset?
Well, I just think about, like, the things that I let happen because of alcohol, like. And I think about all the things that like my, my mom went through my sister’s gone through like because of alcohol in it motivates me to be like in the opposite direction, you know some people take the bad and make it their purpose for good and some people take the bat and make it an excuse and go ahead and just get into the bat as well. So I think that I’m just on the other side where I’m like, I don’t want I don’t I don’t want anything to do with it, I don’t.
Liz Flock 25:52
Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I was also thinking about how we’ve talked a lot about love, and how you love love, which I also identify with, what kind of love do you want going forward in the future?
I haven’t even thought about that. I just I guess I just want someone to love me and love for who she is. Because she’s a lot of work in she’s like, if she’s not at school, she’s she’s full time, she has full time job. And I guess like if they love her, and they love me, and they accept her and they accept me, then that’s good enough for me. For real, now that I’m out my mindset so different, that it’s kind of like, I’m just like, whatever. I don’t know, I still love love. And I think love is the greatest thing that there ever was but at the same time, like I don’t know, I just haven’t put time into love. I haven’t put time into that part of it so I just want to I just want to be independent and be a good person. And then I’ll worry about love.
Liz Flock 27:14
That’s so cool to hear you say because I think yeah, like a lot of us just get caught up in that and then that comes first and then everything else second, and then it causes chaos in your life.
So yeah, cuz that’s that’s exactly what I did the first time and I don’t want to do that again. They you know, my my family calls it hormones, but it was not hormones. It was love okay, I was in love with him. So, yeah, yeah. They just don’t they just don’t understand love like I do.
Liz Flock 27:51
Nobody does, except for you. If you’re in it, you know?
Liz Flock 27:56
Devin has a totally different idea about romantic love. after all she’s been through. She’s focused on making up the years she’s lost and ready to be the mom she has wanted to be for the five years she’s been away.
Liz Flock 28:11
So that’s it. I can’t believe like, our podcast is over but now I guess I get to talk to you like a normal person.
Liz Flock 28:21
So that’s exciting, and I’ll be asking you for mom advice.
Oh, yeah, I’m excited.
Liz Flock 28:28
I’ll be like, how do I change a diaper though?
Liz Flock 28:42
One more thing before I go. As we were finishing production on this podcast, we found out about several other cases of women who are arrested in Alabama for killing their alleged abusers. One woman was charged with murder and her case is ongoing, two other women took plea deals for manslaughter. The injustice doesn’t end with Deven. And it’s a reminder that when we hear stories like this, the reality is often more complicated. It’s a reminder to pay attention to anyone who might be struggling with domestic abuse. The more we can keep an eye out for people in our own lives and unhealthy relationships. The more we can prevent tragedies like this from happening, domestic abuse thrives in the dark, and I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, use a safe computer and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at the hotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233. There’s more Blind Plea with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content. Like an interview with John’s dad, Henry and more excerpts from Deven’s detective interview the night of the shooting. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. Blind Plea is production of Lemonada Media. I’m your host Liz Flock. This episode was produced by Kristin Lapore, […] Evans and Tony Williams, Hannah Boomershine and Rachel Pilgrim are also our producers. Story editing by Martina Abrahams Ilunga. Mix music and sound design by Andrea Kristinsdóttir with additional mixing and engineering from Ivan Kuraev. Naomi Barr is our fact checker. Jayla Everett is our production intern. Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittles Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, evoked media, Sabrina Merage Naim and myself, Liz Flock. This series is presented by Marguerite Casey Foundation. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Follow me at @LizFlock. And for more stories of women and self-defense, check out my book The Furies from Harper books available for preorder now. Find Lemonada at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, and follow Blind Plea wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. Thanks so much for listening.