Diane Gordon, former Assemblywoman for the 40th District has returned home from a serving more than a year on bribery charges. “I feel good being home. I missed my family, my friends, my community,” said Gordon. “I absolutely feel wonderful being home.” Gordon admits to making a mistake.
“Being an elected official, the only thing I feel was my downfall was that I believe that a plan and a set up was designed to bring me down,” she said. “If you check my record, I have always been an outstanding person in the community. Always concerned about the community that I was raised in and raised my family in. I can say, if you look at the whole picture of my life and my downfall – and I did look at it – being an elected official, there was some conversations that I should not have had. Understanding an elected official may not have the opportunity or the right to say that if a house is $500,000, ‘Can I get a discount?’ Maybe you don’t have the right to say that, because of the title.”
Gordon began her 20 months in prison in the city, at Riker’s island. She was transferred to Bedford Hills, an intake station as well as a maximum security facility for those who are sentenced to 5 years or more. “All women do hit Bedford Hills, but then transfer. I was transferred to Abion, NY. From Albion, I went to Beacon, NY, where I spent most of my time.”
The day Gordon came home was a “very highly celebrated day. I was overwhelmed with greeting my family – sisters, my mother, my friends, church, and community folks. I got numerous phone calls. That same day I was home, about 30 people came in and out. They had food for me. I was a person who was well-missed. I was shown a lot of love, a lot of support. I was overwhelmed to see my daughter. She is a blessing to me. One of my daughters was very ill, she is 90% back.” (During Gordon’s incarceration, her daughter had brain surgery.) Just to be home and embrace your children; they are grown, but it doesn’t matter. Children are children.”
Gordon said she has not plans to go back into elected office, but if she did she would fight for incarcerated women. “Right now there are a lot of 17-year-olds serving big time with women in all age categories. Some are in there because they were abused, or because of drugs or money crimes. Their children are taken away from them. Sometimes they don’t have family members to take those kids. The kids go into the [foster care] system, where you, the taxpayers, are paying for it. They need some type of program to help that 16, 17-year-old girl, bring her home so she can raise her child. Give her parenting skills.”
Gordon said, “What they bank on is you staying incarcerated. Or be incarcerated again. It is designed to aggravate you to get into fights, lock-ups. There is big money in it.” Gordon recalled a meeting that took place in the last facility she was in. “The coordinating director was hoping a busload of women came in. A bus load of criminals still committing crimes in order for the jail to have the right statistics to stay full, stay open so it would not be closed. Once you don’t have the right amount of women in jail, the jail closes. The way parole is designed, they want you to violate it. It is important to keep a certain amount of women in jail so that they can keep a certain amount of jobs from higher up on down. It’s not to re-educate you.”
Gordon said the GED and other programs in jail are designed to keep people in programs so that some people become comfortable being incarcerated.
To the young people, Gordon would say, “Jail is not cute. It is not about telling somebody ‘I did a bid, look at me, I’m real tough.’ It takes away your dignity.” While on a bus going from Bedford to Albion (a ten hour ride), there was no bathroom. “Women are shackled together, go to the bathroom together. Women have to pull down each other’s pants. You can’t even wipe yourself decent. If you have your menstrual, you can’t have privacy. No toilet to flush.” If mentoring young girls, Gordon said she would tell them “It is not about gang banging, tattooing, and getting cut up.”
“Jail is something you would never want to experience again,” she said. “Of course, I had never been incarcerated in my life. It was a very humiliating experience for me,” said Gordon. “I can’t believe this is how women are treated. This shouldn’t be. Women are degraded. Men can come in while you are showering. I can tell you, it happens. Officers want to go with you [to have sex]. If you don’t agree, you get a write-up, or they make up something you did to put you in ‘the slammer.’ They want to [have sex] with you because they sneak you a pack of cigarettes. Some girls don’t get any commissary at all. They get 15 cents an hour to work, to do slave labor. Some can’t even buy a bar of soap, so they have to sell themselves. If they don’t want to do that, they go to ‘lock,’ where you just stay in the cell and get your meals there.”
Gordon admitted, “prison is not designed for you to like, that is true. But, you should be treated humanely.” According to Gordon, some people repeatedly go to jail “because they have a problem. We need to define the problem. Some, not all, are addicted, especially those who rob and steal. They give you medication to make sure you come back. A lot of people go to jail and come back higher that people out here. There are more people high in jail than out here, higher than people going to the drug dealer. High on prescription meds. They are getting supplied everyday.” She said when those people are released back onto the streets, they are addicted. “They can’t get what they are used to in prison. When they are released and withdrawing, they are going to knock somebody in the head. Why? So they can go back and get that drug that the doctor is going to give them in that prison. Some are so high they can’t talk good, can’t lift their head.” Gordon said this situation leads to some people qualifying for disability payments. “It is especially sad when young people start going to jail,” said Gordon. “They are designed to go back.” After Gordon’s first well-attended community meeting since coming home, she made several assessments. Regarding the political climate in the 40th Assembly District, Gordon said she “got the sense that people seem thirsty, lacking being able to share their concerns. I feel the type of concerns that wanted to share hadn’t been met for the last 20 months.” Gordon said she is happy to see the community is still striving. She looks forward to reaching out to and saving young people. “Once the mature people still have a thirst for success and finding out who you are as a person, you can contribute not only to your community, but first to yourself. That is something we want to pass on.”
Former Assemblywoman Diane Gordon will host community meetings on the first Saturday of the month starting in February.