09:37
TEDxMuncyStatePrison

The Lady Lifers: A moving song from women in prison for life

Filmed:

The ten women in this chorus have all been sentenced to life in prison. They share a moving song about their experiences — one that reveals their hopes, regrets and fears. "I'm not an angel," sings one, "but I'm not the devil." Filmed at an independent TEDx event inside Muncy State Prison, it's a rare and poignant look inside the world of people imprisoned with no hope of parole. (Note: The prison's Office of Victim Advocacy has ensured that victims were treated fairly and respectfully around this TEDx event.)

- Inmates
A life sentence in Pennsylvania means exactly that; there is no possibility of parole. These women, all of whom have served decades in prison, sing about their lives on the inside. Full bio

(Music)
00:13
Dannielle Hadley: Life
in Pennsylvania means just that:
00:17
life without the possibility of parole.
00:22
For us lifers,
00:26
as we call ourselves,
00:28
our only chance for release
00:30
is through commutation,
00:32
which has only been granted
to two women since 1989,
00:34
close to 30 years ago.
00:39
Our song, "This Is Not Our Home,"
00:42
it tells of our experiences
00:45
while doing life without
the possibility of parole.
00:47
(Music)
00:53
Brenda Watkins: I'm a woman.
01:12
I'm a grandmother.
01:15
I'm a daughter.
01:18
I have a son.
01:21
I'm not an angel.
01:24
I'm not the devil.
01:26
I came to jail
01:29
when I was so young.
01:32
I spend my time here
01:42
inside these prison walls.
01:47
Lost friends to death,
01:53
saw some go home.
01:56
Watch years pass,
02:03
people come and go,
02:07
while I do life without parole.
02:11
I am a prisoner
for the wrong I've done.
02:25
I'm doing time here.
02:30
This is not my home.
02:33
Dream of freedom, hope for mercy.
02:35
Will I see
02:40
my family
02:44
or die alone?
02:48
As the years go by,
02:58
I hold back my tears,
03:02
because if I cry I'd give in to fear.
03:07
I must be strong, have to hold on.
03:16
Gotta get through
03:24
another year.
03:28
I am a prisoner
for the wrong I've done.
03:32
I'm doing time here.
This is not my home.
03:37
Dream of freedom, hope for mercy.
03:41
Will I see
03:46
my family
03:51
or die alone?
03:54
I'm not saying that I'm not guilty,
04:04
I'm not saying that I shouldn't pay.
04:08
All I'm asking is for forgiveness.
04:13
Gotta have hope I'll be free someday.
04:16
Is there a place for me
04:28
in the world out there?
04:34
Will they ever know or care
that I'm chained?
04:38
Is there redemption for the sin
of my younger days?
04:47
Because I've changed.
04:54
Lord knows I've changed.
04:58
I am a prisoner
for the wrong I've done.
05:02
I'm doing time here.
This is not my home.
05:07
Dream of freedom, hope for mercy.
05:10
Will I see
05:15
my family
05:19
or die alone?
05:22
Will I see
05:31
my family
05:35
or die alone?
05:38
I'm known to you as Inmate 008106.
05:48
Incarcerated 29 years.
05:54
My name is Brenda Watkins.
05:57
I was born and raised
in Hoffman, North Carolina.
05:59
This is not my home.
06:03
(Applause)
06:06
Thelma Nichols: Inmate number 0B2472.
06:12
I've been incarcerated for 27 years.
06:15
My name is Thelma Nichols.
06:19
I was born and raised
in Philadelphia, P.A.
06:21
This is not my home.
06:24
(Applause)
06:26
DH: 008494.
06:31
I've been incarcerated for 27 years.
06:34
My name is Dannielle Hadley.
06:37
I was born and raised
in Philadelphia, P.A,
06:39
and this is not my home.
06:42
(Applause)
06:45
Theresa Battles: Inmate 008309.
06:50
I've been incarcerated for 27 years.
06:55
My name is Theresa Battles.
06:59
I'm from Norton, New Jersey,
07:01
and this is not my home.
07:04
(Applause)
07:08
Debra Brown: I am known as Inmate 007080.
07:13
I've been incarcerated for 30 years.
07:18
My name is Debra Brown.
07:21
I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
07:23
This is not my home.
07:26
(Applause)
07:28
Joann Butler: 005961.
07:32
I've been incarcerated for 37 years.
07:36
My name is Joann Butler,
07:41
and I was born and raised in Philadelphia.
07:43
This is not my home.
07:47
(Applause)
07:49
Diane Hamill Metzger: Number 005634.
07:56
I've been incarcerated for 39
and one half years.
07:59
My name is Diane Hamill Metzger.
08:02
I'm from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
08:06
and this is not my home.
08:08
(Applause)
08:10
Lena Brown: I am 004867.
08:16
Incarcerated 40 years.
08:19
My name is Lena Brown,
08:22
and I was born and raised
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
08:23
and this is not my home.
08:26
(Applause)
08:29
Trina Garnett: My number is 005545.
08:35
My name is Trina Garnett,
08:43
I've been incarcerated for 37 years,
08:46
since I was 14 years old.
08:51
Born and raised in Chester, Pennsylvania,
08:55
and this is not my home.
08:58
(Applause)
09:01
Will I see
09:12
my family
09:17
or die alone?
09:21
Or die alone?
09:25
(Applause)
09:29

▲Back to top

About the Speaker:

The Lady Lifers - Inmates
A life sentence in Pennsylvania means exactly that; there is no possibility of parole. These women, all of whom have served decades in prison, sing about their lives on the inside.

Why you should listen

“I’m a woman, I’m a grandmother, I’m a daughter, I have a son,” sings Brenda Watkins, lead vocalist for The Lady Lifers. “I’m not an angel, I’m not the devil. I came to jail when I was so young.”

The Lady Lifers are a chorus of women serving life sentences in Muncy State Prison in Pennsylvania. While they are often known by their inmate numbers, they also have names: Brenda Watkins, Dannielle Hadley, Debra Lee Brown, Theresa Battles, Diane Metzger, Thelma Nichols, Joann Butler, Lena Brown, Trina Garnett, Naomi Blount. Together, they sing about their hopes and fears, including the very real possibility that they may die alone in prison.

The words to their song “This is Not My Home” by Howard Woodring. Music by Naomi Blount.

More profile about the speaker
The Lady Lifers | Speaker | TED.com