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Tricia Binette, 26, has been waiting for this moment for over 36 months. Waiting to put on different clothes, waiting to take a bath, waiting to smoke a cigarette, waiting to eat at Pizza Hut — most of all, just waiting. Tricia has served a three-year sentence for robbery and for selling crack cocaine. Today she will be released.

Tricia grasps the handle of a Maine Correctional Center van door and slides it open. With a huge smile across her delicately featured face — and a hint of fear in her eyes — she steps down and looks back at a fence that she has not been outside of in three years. She made it. But this is just the beginning.

Life outside the prison walls won’t be easy as Trish tries to stay clean and piece together her life after five years of serious drug use. She was raised in foster homes and has been on and off the streets since she was 10 years old. The apartment that Tricia secured is next door to a crack house. Every time she goes to pick up food stamps, she will see old friends from when she was homeless, and customers in search of drugs will still recognize her — even after the 100 pounds she gained in prison.

But Trish is strong and determined, and she is in a promising position as she prepares for re-entry into what could be a difficult world: She has an apartment and a job lined up, and she is saving money to get the tools she needs to start her stained-glass projects again, to keep herself busy and away from temptation. Trish has sober friends. She has resolve. And she has hope. In a strange way, Trish says, prison saved her life; more than one of her friends overdosed while she was incarcerated. With her infectious warmth, Tricia affirms, "Every day, I feel lucky."

Photo essay by Anna Mackenzie Weaver; images courtesy of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

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