Having spent 17 years behind the walls, Steeda McGruder, founder of Sisters That Been There, was hesitant to watch a show about women in prison. Once she did see Orange is the New Black, she says the show amazingly “nails it” — the hardships, the relationships, and the internal struggle.
By Steeda McGruder
I hesitated when friends told me to watch Orange is the New Black. Being that that I’ve spent the last 17 years of my life behind the walls, I figured unless it was different than all the other prison shows that never got it right, I could wait. It wasn’t until a good friend told me, “Yo like foreal, you need to watch this, it hella reminds me of you,” that I actually sat down and watched it.
I automatically understood the show from the women I saw in the introduction. I saw the faces of all the different types of women that go in and out — some have piercings, some have scars from the street life or drug abuse, some are clear eyed and clear faced, some are dirty, some skinny, some bigger. I could immediately relate to the main character, Piper (who is based on Piper Kerman who wrote a book about her incarceration), while thinking of all my trips to the big house — having to turn yourself in and the thoughts about the choices, the wanting to change the past and turn the clock back. Continue reading
At a forum on realignment towards the end of 2011, our very own Steeda McGruder blew away the audience as she described how the strength and encouragement she found from other women while incarcerated is what allowed her to transform her life, and break a cycle of incarceration. She had a dream of working with incarcerated women to help them turn their lives around. Just months later, Steeda is running a ground-breaking new program in Santa Clara County in collaboration with probation. Check out her story!
By Steeda McGruder — Below is a letter I wrote and handed out to all the women participating in my new program called Sisters That Been There – a support group for women being released from prison and returning to Santa Clara County, done in partnership with the Santa Clara County Probation Department. Continue reading