Blog

DAY 6 of $30,000 in 10 Days: Hear Colette’s Truth


Colette
Program graduate
Incarcerated a total of 19 years over 5 sentences
Free since October 2012

Describe your life today.

I moved to Greensboro, N.C., six years ago to be with my daughter and grandsons. My son has since moved here as well. My relationships with my adult children have evolved in a way that I would have never imagined. I have learned how to be supportive of my children as opposed to still trying to raise them. We have established boundaries that make our relationships stronger.

I am active in my church and community. I am working as a housekeeping supervisor for a brand hotel, a position I have held for over two years of the five and a half years I have been with the company.

What are you most proud of since you’ve been free?

I am most proud of the fact that I have committed myself to a life of accountability. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in 2017. I am happy with the strides I have made, the friends I have, and the relationships I have built with my family, friends and coworkers.

How does your past incarceration still affect your life today — negatively and/or positively?

The negative aspect is that I have applied for jobs I am qualified for but did not get because of my background. However, on the positive side, I have been able to excel in the field I now work in, finding a love for people I didn’t have before because I am in a service-driven field.

My past incarcerations have given me a level of empathy for others I may have not had, were I not a woman with past justice involvement. I have never considered myself a judgmental person, but there was a time in my life when my ignorance of certain situations caused me to be standoffish.

A few years ago, I met a woman who was down on her luck. I would see her on my way to work, standing on the corner of a busy intersection and panhandling. Sometimes I would give her money if I had cash on me. I have been homeless and destitute, and I know how it feels to have nothing. At one point, she got really sick and I didn’t see her anymore. I prayed that she had been able to get herself together.

A few weeks later, my neighbor referred a mechanic to me when I was having trouble with my car. When the mechanic contacted me, I asked if he could come to my house to fix my car. He said he would, but his mother and children would be with him. Imagine my surprise when he arrived and I realized that his mother was the woman I had seen panhandling at the intersection! She and I talked, and she thanked me for my kindness. I know I wasn’t the only person who had shown her kindness, but I am thankful that I was able to.

What Truth Be Told program did you experience while incarcerated, and what did you gain from that experience?

I participated in the Talk to Me Writing and Let’s Get Real programs. These programs gave me the tools and support I needed to move forward with the life I had dreamed of beyond prison. In those classrooms, I found a community of individuals who accepted me for who I was and what I had gone through — encouraging and lifting me up, offering positive suggestions when needed, and just listening when I needed an ear.

How does Truth Be Told continue to influence your life?

I have stayed in contact with Truth Be Told through their weekly Keep on Talking empowerment conference calls for program graduates who are back in society. I have built long-lasting relationships with other members in Truth Be Told’s Beyond Bars program. The Tuesday night calls are a lifeline for me.

Last year, I had the privilege of traveling to Austin to be the keynote speaker at Truth Be Told’s annual Community of Changemakers dinner and fundraiser. To have the opportunity to speak about how Truth Be Told changed my life and the importance of the work this program does was amazing. It is so important that people are able to see and hear why this program is so integral to the success of justice-involved women being able to change their lives.

Why is Truth Be Told important and worth supporting?

This organization is an avid supporter of justice-involved women in a way that few others are. Truth Be Told shows women that there is life beyond incarceration and that they do not have to be victimized by their past. Offering women a strong sense of community and supporting their goals and dreams makes a difference; it gives hope to those who have been hopeless. When you give people an opportunity to change and support the change they are striving for, lives are reinvented in a way that makes living productively in society a real possibility.

Describe the women you met in prison.

The women I met in prison were just like me. We were mothers, daughters and sisters who had lost our way. Poor decisions and a lack of resources were at the core of our issues. Drug addiction and abusive relationships may have also played a major role in our lives.

For me, drug addiction was the catalyst in my criminal behavior. I was addicted to crack cocaine, and it consumed my life so fast and so completely that I thought I would never be able to recover. However, in Truth Be Told classrooms, I found a safe place to speak my truth and wonderful people who helped me find a way to live that truth. I was able to shed the hurt, shame, embarrassment and guilt of addiction so that I could heal and move passed it.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the correctional system, what would you change and why?

If I had a magic wand, I would change the perception that justice-involved people don’t deserve a chance after incarceration to be productive individuals. When you take away a person’s ability to care for themselves and those who depend on them, you are basically sentencing them to a life that will not produce substance. Instead, it evokes desperation and will possibly cause them to repeat the behaviors that got them incarcerated all over again.

Favorite prison recipe?

Ramen Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:
2 packages of ramen noodles (flavor of choice)
1 bag of cheese puffs, crushed
1 pickle, chopped
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
hot sauce (use to taste)
1 cup hot water

Instructions:
1. Prepare noodles according to package instructions without the seasoning packets. Set aside.
2. Crush cheese puffs completely in the chip bag. Add cooked noodles, chopped pickles, mayonnaise, hot sauce and seasoning packets to the chip bag. Mix thoroughly.
3. Secure chip bag tightly and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

***

Honor Colette by helping Truth Be Told raise $30,000 in 10 Days between September 16-25. All gifts made during this 10-day campaign will DOUBLE in size, thanks to a matching pledge of up to $30,000! 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 $30,000 in 10 Days to make your gift today!

Click on photos to see full images.