How long has it been since you were released from prison?
I was released from prison on Oct. 3, 2017, to a federal halfway house and then released on home confinement on Nov. 3, 2017. I came off house arrest on Dec. 22, 2017, and I’m currently on probation.
Describe your home/family life today.
Well, three months before I went to prison, I married an amazing man, and he raised my daughter for the two years that I was incarcerated. He brought her to visit me every weekend. Truthfully, I thought it would be hard to adjust to living with my husband who I only lived with for three months prior to prison, but the hardest adjustment has been with my daughter. She really suffered while I was gone because I was her world. We have gone to counseling and we devote more one-on-one time together.
I wish I could say my life is a fairytale, but it has flaws and we are still adjusting to a “new normal” — just like my husband and daughter had to adjust to a “new normal” when I was away. The three of us are very excited that on August 20 we welcomed the newest edition of our family into the world — our baby girl, Tharyn Deen.
Tell us about your job with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP).
I am a bookkeeper with PEP, and I have been working for them since February. It was hard for me to find a job. I have a double bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance. I worked as a tax auditor before going to prison. I did not think I would have trouble finding a job, because my crime had nothing to do with money.
Boy, was I wrong.
I ended up having to take a job I didn’t like because of the requirement of my house arrest and probation. But, finally, one weekend in February, my family and I were in Austin visiting relatives, and we decided that I would not go back to work at that company. I completely hated it, and we knew that we as a family could figure out something else to get by. The next day, after making that decision, I received a phone call from PEP, asking me to come in because they had a job opening. I had met some people at PEP in January through a friend of mine … and I had gone with PEP to Lockhart prison to speak to the women enrolled in the PEP program there. It was definitely God’s timing, because I went in for the interview and I was given a job offer the next day.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
I have the most rewarding group of individuals to work with. I don’t feel I am judged for having a felony on my record. We are all human beings and we all make mistakes, and we have all paid for our mistakes.
What is your experience with Truth Be Told?
I took Truth Be Told’s Talk to Me Speaking program while I was at Bryan Federal Prison Camp, because I wanted to get better at public speaking. I knew God was going to use my story one day, and I wanted to be able to get up in front of people and tell my testimony. During the class, I realized I had some built-up resentment that I needed to really let go of, and — because of the class — I felt like I was able to overcome it. I then applied to be a mentor the following semester because I truly enjoyed my time in the Talk to Me Speaking class. I was so thankful for (my facilitator) Lori, because she was the one consistent thing I had in prison. She showed up every week with a smile on her face, and she seemed to genuinely care for us.
What did you gain through Truth Be Told?
I gained confidence in speaking and in myself and I discovered my self-worth. Because of Talk to Me Speaking, I was able to go to Lockhart prison with PEP and speak to those women there without fear. While in the Talk to Me class, I was able to remove some “baggage” I had been carrying for so long. I also gained some lifelong friendships through my Truth Be Told community.
Why is Truth Be Told worth supporting?
Truth Be Told is worth supporting because it empowers women when they are at their lowest, and it rebuilds them up and gives them something to strive for. Truth Be Told also offers such a great network (of other program graduates and volunteers) in the community to help keep you on the right track when you are released.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception people have about incarcerated people?
The biggest misconception people have about incarcerated people is that they are all bad people, but truthfully there are so many people incarcerated. The U.S. has the highest amount of people incarcerated. We have all made mistakes in our lives, and the ones who have been or are incarcerated are the ones who got caught. I feel that I shouldn’t have to be judged or thought of differently because I have a felony label on me now. I have paid my debt to society.
Is there anything you want people to know that these questions didn’t address?
Get involved. Do something. Give back. Because at the end of the day, it could have easily been you sitting in that khaki uniform with the steel-toe boots, where you were no longer a name but only an inmate number.
Honor Courtney by helping Truth Be Told raise $10,000 in 10 Days between Sept 15-24. All gifts made during this 10-day campaign will DOUBLE in size, thanks to a matching pledge of up to $10,000! Your gift will ensure that Truth Be Told continues to provide safe community and healing programs to nearly 1,000 justice-involved women every year! Click on $10,000 in 10 Days to make your gift today!
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