Deb Ainsworth (1956 – 2023)
Deb Ainsworth arrived at The Farm in December 2018 after 27 years of incarceration. The first resident she met upon her arrival was Lady, our original Farm Dog. Just a few weeks later, it snowed. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Deb was the first person to walk across untouched snow without anyone telling her what to do or where she could go.
Deb was considered a “lifer” under the Fair Sentencing Act and was eventually granted parole. Despite being free from prison, Deb faced intense challenges. She had to learn how to use a cell phone and computer. It took her several months to feel comfortable leaving the house to go outside without permission. She experienced chronic health issues after decades of inadequate healthcare and poor nutrition.
But none of that slowed Deb down. Deb was a trained horticulturist and quickly rose to the position of Greenhouse Manager at the Farm. She managed the plants with gentle care. She adored the chickens and dogs (Lady and all our furry visitors), loving on them every chance she got.
Deb always had something to say. She accompanied staff and board members to speaking events, starting every event with “This is my story and I choose how to tell it. If I don’t like your question, I won’t answer it.”
Deb is the embodiment of second chances. Upon completing two years at Benevolence Farm, she became the first alumna to be hired on to staff. Her position: Second Chance Alamance Coordinator. As she wrote in her welcome blog post, “I am now strong enough to step out and make my voice heard for those who have no voice — the women I left behind in the North Carolina prison system.”
Sadly, after just three years of freedom, Deb was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our criminal legal system was callous towards her healthcare needs, maintaining its stance that she should be required to maintain a job as part of her probation conditions. They continued to barr her from seeing family one last time. We struggled to find resources she could access as both someone with limited income and a criminal record that prevented her from community living places. Deb was cared for deeply and intensely by her chosen family in her last few years.
We are deeply saddened that Deb did not get more time to enjoy her freedom healthily and fully. We continue this work to build safe communities for women returning home in her memory.
We choose to remember Deb’s intense love for animals, deep care for her chosen family, and her never-ending pursuit to call attention to the women she left behind.
We love and miss you, Deb. Rest in power. 🌻