Vanguard Incarcerated Press banner

Note by Joan Parkin…

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of La Shante Ervin, one of the Vanguard Incarcerated Press’s contributors. Many of you may remember her piece entitled “How I Survived Prison.” She survived by fighting off adversity and following her mother’s advice to get an education because it would “make a difference.” She had had enough: She heard a wake-up call at a documentation hearing for lifers: “CDCR is supposed to rehabilitate you, well I’m not going to wait on them to help me. I’m going to start rehabilitating myself.” La Shante earned her AA degree and was expecting to graduate with a BA from Fresno State in 2024. Her life stands as a model of strength and determination and a testament to someone who didn’t simply survive but prevailed in the face of the most daunting of circumstances. Rest in power, La Shante.

Commentary: How I Survived in Prison

By La Shante Ervin

Biden says he’ll visit fire-ravaged Hawaii “as soon as we can.”

How I survived in prison is a big question. I first entered the prison system in 1987. I entered the only women’s prison in California, California Institute for Women (CIW).

My first term I was sentenced to seven years, which I did half of, then paroled. When I paroled, I was out and back within a year’s time.

I had a drug addiction. Crack cocaine controlled my life. Drug addiction and crime go hand in hand. Criminal activity became something normal to me. It was my daily routine. With that so-called daily routine I received thirty-five years to life under the three-strikes law.

As I sat here in prison, I thought about how I wasted my whole life, the many years behind these walls, what I can do and will do about that to make a difference.

My mom raised my brother and me. She always told us and instilled in our head that getting an education makes a big difference in your life and helps you get a good job and a great career.

After graduating from high school I chose to do other things and thought the fast life and hustling was better than college and getting a job. I came to prison with that same mindset, thinking that hustling was the life. I learned that hustling was not the thing to do in prison or outside.

In 2010 I received my AA degree from Feather River Community College. I began to facilitate groups, getting involved in organizations, to try to change myself and help others change themselves.

I went to a documentation hearing for lifers. In that hearing a commissioner would let us know about the programs we should be doing and what classes to take. Additionally, we talked about the 115’s if we have received any.

The commissioner told me that I really think that I could just hustle my way through life and I just didn’t care about authority figures. He told me that if I wanted to get to society that I would have to leave hustling alone. From that day forth what he said to me stuck in my head.

Since then my whole mindset has changed. I made up my mind that I am not going to be that same person that I was when I walked in. I am going to be a different and better person than I used to be. CDCR is supposed to rehabilitate you. Well I’m not going to wait on them to help me. I’m going to start rehabilitating myself.

I got down on my knees and prayed to my higher power who is Jesus Christ. I gave my life to him and asked him to mold me into a better person and let me be the person I should have been.

I trained myself to get up early, read my word and pray about the day ahead and thank God for another day.

Being sentenced under the three-strikes law I pray that a law will come along and pertain to those like myself, a violent three-striker, but all in all I sat and learned about myself and learned to ask for help.

Being in prison I learned to make different and better decisions. Today I am enrolled in the Bachelor’s degree program at Fresno State College and I will be receiving my degree in 2024.

Making better choices and decisions is how I have survived in prison. My mom always told me, “Shante, you can do whatever you put your mind to and always remember the sky’s the limit.” Mom, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me no matter what.

My best friend Carletha, who has been with me and stood by my side, always told me, “Friend, you can do this and I am here for you always.”

Surviving in prison for me was making better decisions. One decision that I stuck with was being a different person than I was when I first came in here twenty-three years ago.

I want to give all the praise, honor, and glory to my higher power Jesus Christ because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have made this change and couldn’t have made it this far. It’s up to you to make the choices and decisions and survive prison.


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for