Shermain Miles — arrested 396 times — out of prison, hopes for new start
By Stefano Esposito Staff Reporter November 18, 2013 7:46PM
Updated: December 20, 2013 11:10AM
Shermain Miles read her Bible on the train, ignoring the wind’s destruction outside as she returned to Chicago on Monday and prepared to pick up the pieces of her own shattered life.
For those who had been dreading her return to a city where she has amassed 396 arrests since 1978, Miles said: “If they can find it in their hearts to forgive me . . .”
The metal doors to Logan Correctional Center in Downstate Lincoln opened for Miles on Monday, after she served almost one year for her latest tangle with the law: assaulting Ald. James Cappleman (46th) two summers ago in Uptown.
A white plastic cross dangled from Miles’ neck as an Illinois Department of Corrections officer escorted her to the Chicago-bound Amtrak train at the platform in tiny Lincoln.
“I got a lawyer to sue y’all,” Miles said as a Chicago Sun-Times photographer approached.
But after settling into her seat and enjoying a Snickers bar from the food car, Miles softened, saying she has permanently given up booze, drugs and her old buddies — a cocktail that often drove her to violence or left her lying in a stupor along a busy stretch of Bryn Mawr in Edgewater.
“I’m just not going to go back around there,” said Miles, 52. “I can love [my friends] from a distance. Anybody that’s drugging, I can’t be around.”
Nothing has worked to help Miles shed her demons — neither jail, nor prison nor countless psychological exams. Until now, said Miles, who was headed to Humboldt Park, to a second-chance residential home for ex-inmates.
“I’m really not that bad a person,” Miles explained. “It was the alcohol I was drinking that turned me into a monster.”
By all accounts, Miles was well-behaved during her most recent stay in prison.
“She was a good prisoner,” said Tom Shaer, a Department of Corrections spokesman. “She did what she was asked. She broke no rules.”
Adam Monreal, chair of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, has met with Miles perhaps half a dozen times — trying to find a way to break the cycle.
Monreal says he’s optimistic that Miles will make it this time.
“Life is a continuing battle,” he said. “Hopefully, she’s seen the light and is tired of being incarcerated. . . . She’s indicated she’s willing to change her behavior.”
Cappleman, Miles’ victim in August 2012, said he hopes she gets the help she needs.
“You cannot hang around the same places, with the same people, doing the same thing — that will trigger a relapse,” Cappleman said.
Edgewater florist Rick Flinn predicts that will be soon.
“Oh dear,” he said. “That will be nice for winter. She’ll be up there lying on the sidewalk in the snow.”