- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

DALLAS (AP) - Anisha Walker wore white for two decades. Until now.

The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/2mpHKUn ) reports she walked out of prison Feb. 22 and left behind the bleached and ill-fitting cotton shirts and pants of the Texas prison uniform.

She was known as “Little Baby” when she arrived at prison at 14. A guard didn’t want to let her in at first because she was certain Walker didn’t belong.

Walker killed a man during a robbery in Arlington and was tried as an adult. She grew up with other criminals, women two or three times her age. Sometimes more.

Now, she’s 34 and no longer prisoner No. 00808676. She’s free - sort of.

Walker will live in a halfway house near Austin. She must report to a probation officer and must abide by the facility’s rules. But she can come and go, as long as she comes back.

Walker was featured in a Dallas Morning News series called “Kids or Criminals?” about what it was like to come of age behind bars and the consequences for society and the inmates when they’re one day released.

“I’m so ready to go,” Walker wrote in a recent letter before her release. “I’m kind of rushing.”

The halfway house staff picked Walker up from the Dempsie Henley State Jail in Dayton. The warden wouldn’t allow visitors to see Walker leave prison.

She’d hoped to immediately move in with relatives in Dallas County, but her parole requires her to stay in the halfway house for a while.

“That’s fine,” she said in an interview before her release. “I’ve always wanted to live in Austin. It’s fine - long as I know I’m going home.”

Walker wants to leap into her new life. Instead, she must inch along.

“When I push my pride to the side, I need it because it’s going to slowly integrate me back into society,” Walker said. “I don’t have to jump feet first in, which would probably be detrimental to me.”

Walker is a murderer, even if she was a child at the time.

She takes responsibility for her actions, something not all in Walker’s place do. She shot Nigerian immigrant Pedro Enemku in the head after selling him crack cocaine at an Arlington apartment complex.

“I committed a crime, a heinous crime. I killed somebody. I took a life. So, I deserve to be punished for it,” she said. “But I believe I’ve paid my debt to society and I also believe (with) the skills I’ve learned … I can be a productive citizen.”

She accepts what she did, but she traces her mistakes back to one moment: She says her life changed when, at age 11, her mother told her that the man she called daddy wasn’t really related to her.

Thus began a long slide into trouble.

The grandparents she lived with and adored in Grand Prairie weren’t really related to her. She began to bounce around from relative to relative.

Her mother, whom she’d always seen only infrequently, now became more and more of a shadow as she struggled with drug addiction. Not seeing her much was for the best, Walker said.

Walker was picked up for car theft. She was released from juvenile detention when her mother agreed to take her in, but she soon ran away and lived on the streets.

She got an older boyfriend. He took her to see the last movie she saw in a theater: “Set It Off” starring Jada Pinkett (before she married Will Smith), Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise as four women who pull a bank heist.

When the boyfriend was jailed, she turned to robbery to raise bail, she said. On May 23, 1997, she killed Enemku.

Her case could have been handled in juvenile court. Tarrant County prosecutors told a judge she couldn’t be saved - could never be rehabilitated and never be fit for a normal life again. They moved her case to adult court and she became the youngest person, at the time, to be tried as an adult in that county.

She eventually wrote a letter to the judge admitting what she’d done. She entered a guilty plea in court. But in a childish gesture, she stuck her tongue out at a news photographer just before a judge sentenced her to 35 years in prison.

Her 15th birthday was spent in prison.

She was strip-searched, worked in the fields and spent the first 10 years getting in fights, proving she wasn’t weak.

The simple pleasures most don’t think twice about are foremost on Walker’s mind.

There are only showers in prisons. Many who’ve spent time behind bars think of baths as a luxury for years after they get out.

“First, I’m going to take a shower, and I’m going to wash my hair,” she said. “Then, I’m going to clean the tub out and take a long bath.”

Walker will probably have to wait until she leaves the halfway house for a dip in the tub. She’ll likely stay in the halfway house 90 days. Maybe less. She’s always planned to live with an aunt in Cedar Hill afterward.

Tara Roberts couldn’t immediately be reached, but in 2015 she told The News that Walker was welcome in her home. For ex-cons, especially those who went to prison as kids, family support is key to not ending up back in prison. It’s key to thriving in life.

“I just remember the little child, and I know the adult she has become,” Roberts said. “She’s going to make it. She needs a chance, and I’m going to help.”

A job is high on Walker’s list. She must also keep appointments with her probation officer and stay out of trouble. A serious misstep could send her back to prison for a parole violation.

She took culinary classes in prison and dreams of being a cook at a fancy restaurant. But she knows she’ll have to start out small. Maybe a job at Whataburger. From what she remembers, she likes their food.

The job search will be tough with a murder conviction.

She’ll need money to achieve her next out-of-prison goal: a rose gold Samsung Galaxy S6. She’s only seen pictures in magazines. Other inmates who’ve had smartphones tell her an iPhone is the way to go. But she won’t be dissuaded.

Walker’s most ambitious goal may have been the same even if she’d never pulled the trigger. If she’d never run away or stolen a car. If she’d grown up believing her daddy was her biological father even if he wasn’t.

She wants a family.

“I want to be successful. But I still want, more than anything, to be a mama,” Walker said. “I want babies. I don’t want a baby daddy. I want a husband.”

For the girl who took so much and lost so much, “that will be the top, the cream of the crop.”

___

Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com

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