WYSO

From Joining A Gang At Age 12 To Serving A Life Sentence: Lana Williams Looks Back

Mar 20, 2016

Lana Williams has been in Ohio prisons for 16 years. Now in her mid-40s, she’s a reflective woman whose nickname on the inside is “Shy.”

Her story starts long before her criminal conviction—in an interview with her good friend Tyra Patterson, she takes us back to her childhood in the projects in Chicago, where she joined a gang at age 12 and became addicted to drugs not long after.

After her friends in the gang ditched her, Lana came to Columbus to start over. In part two of her story, we learn why starting over didn’t work out. Lana also reflects on being in prison as a mother of four.

Highlights from the audio:

“My mom just literally made [us have] good moments. Because most of the time it wasn’t a good moment in that environment.”

“Every day at 2:30, me and my older sister and a few more of our friends, we would brace ourselves, because we would literally have to run out of the school building and run all the way through Chinatown to get back across the expressway back to the projects.”

“I got a job, was back in church, staying at home with my grandmother, helping her out because she was up in age and honestly she had one of my children, and I was helping her with my child. I was on the right track. But I learned also that you can go to Timbuktu, trying to get away from drugs. Drugs are in every city, every state, every neighborhood, if you want it, your body got a itch for it, you can find it.”

“I’m gonna be let down. But I don’t have to hold onto that. Because I’ve let my own family down, I’ve let my children down and that is the way I look at it. So even today, when things happen or when I’m disappointed or when I’m angered for that moment, you know, it comes and it goes.”

Women’s Voices from Dayton Correctional Institution is a series of stories based on WYSO’s Community Voices class at the prison on the west side. WYSO selected 10 incarcerated women through a competitive application process, and taught them interviewing, storytelling and recording skills. The series is produced and mixed by managing editor Lewis Wallace and Community Voices producer Renee Wilde, with volunteer support from Community Voices graduate Dr. Venita Kelley and editorial input from general manager Neenah Ellis.