Aug. 4, 2005 -- -- When 16-year-old Ashley was charged with disorderly conduct and sent to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections' Black Canyon School, she was filled with self-hate for herself, and fury for anyone near her.
But after a short time at the facility, "Primetime's" cameras caught how a young woman can begin to overcome a lifetime of pain under the right circumstances.
Before she arrived, Ashley had tried to kill herself seven times. "I'm like a time bomb," she had told "Primetime" co-anchor Chris Cuomo.
When Ashley was born, her teenage parents were both on meth, and neither cared very much for being a parent.
Still worse, she claims she was molested. She won't say by whom, but she says the resulting pain has driven her delinquency -- stealing, fighting, skipping school.
Ashley says at her worse, "I'd have the cops called on me every day."
For all her life, Ashley wanted nothing more than the attention of her mother. Ironically, the person whose love she most craves is also the person who hurt her the most.
"She wasn't there for me, and without her there, and my father there, I didn't have structure in my life," Ashley said. Instead, Ashley was raised by her grandparents.
At Black Canyon, Ashley got one-on-one therapy, and for the first time, found someone to talk to. She also took to writing her pain away, especially in letters to mom.
"I told her that I hated her, and I could care less what happened to her. She's not my mother, she's just the person that gave birth to me."
In a letter to her father, Ashley wrote: "You're someone who was supposed to be there and supposed to care, instead you walked out of my life and never looked back. I can honestly say, I'll never come back in your life."
But self-hate does not go away immediately.
"So many people in my family have told me that they've hated me, they hate me, and they don't want me around them," she said. "Even when they do tell me they love me, I find it hard to believe." She said she doesn't even love herself.
A New Beginning
When Ashley came before the superintendent review board to make her case for freedom though, it was apparent she had changed.
She was willing to discuss her emotions and share letters and poems she addressed to others, but wrote for herself.
But she added that she didn't particularly enjoy doing it: "It's hard, because it brings back memories I don't really want to bring back up," she said.
She told the board, "Before I didn't really care what happened to me, but now being away from my family I know they care about me and they want me to just be successful."
Her grandmother also chimed in via speakerphone: "Ashley can do it! She just needs to have the right kind of guidance and someone to show her what's right and what's wrong that's it and that is how it's going to be."
Ashley made a persuasive case and the board decided to release her. "I think you have done a lot of changing a lot of growing," said superintendent Suzanne La Rue.
But privately, La Rue told "Primetime": "I hope I don't see Ashley back here, but there is a really good chance Ashley will be back."
One of the challenges is that Ashley will face is that she will go back to her grandparents' house, and they will be the only buffer to her returning to her old life.
Her mother lives just blocks from her grandparents, and Ashley still feels that her mother has put the men in her life before her children.
At first, things went well. Within days, there was even a new boyfriend in the picture. But then, her three-time convicted felon father called, and shattered her fragile confidence.
"He told me what I already knew," Ashley said. "He told me that he didn't want nothing to do with me. That I was worthless. That I was a mistake."
After she got off the phone with him, Ashley tried to kill herself again. "Went in the bathroom took two, three bottles of pills and started taking them. I wanted to die. I wanted it all to end," she said.
But Ashley survived, and her mother surprised her by showing up and taking responsibility for some of her pain.
"I wasn't there for her when she was little, she didn't get to be a child," her mother said. "It was my fault. I was strung out on drugs. I was so young when I had her. I wasn't ready for her."
Ashley is now engaged and will continue schooling over the Internet from her grandparents' house. She continues to try and have a relationship with her mom.
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