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DAY 7 of $30,000 in 10 Days: Hear Donna’s Truth


Donna
Program graduate
Incarcerated 7 years
Free since February 2012

Describe your life today.

I was released in 2012, and, since then, there have been many hardships, but so, so many blessings. I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister and aunt. I remodel houses and have been with the same company for six years now. We bought our first home three years ago. My wife went to school and got her commercial driver’s license a few years ago. A few months ago, I started my own remodeling business, and it is doing amazing. In January, I will be starting barber school.

My goal is to be completely self-employed by the end of 2020. It is a huge and overwhelming step for me. I never would have imagined having one business — much less two! But here I am, following the path God has set forth for me. I am terrified and excited all at once. I can’t believe someone with my background is capable of being so fortunate.

Life is very busy for my little family. Between me working my job and running my company, my wife working 70-plus hours a week driving trucks (and then making time to help me run the company), my son’s schooling, basketball, baseball and football, we don’t have much extra time. But we always do our best to spend time as a family and work hard to build our future. We have an understanding that sacrifices have to be made, but, above all else, family is most important.

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

I am most proud of how far I have come in the last seven years. Before I went to prison, I had dropped out of school. I worked small jobs that didn’t require skill, and I never imagined I would have a good-paying job or that I would buy a house. I remember when I first got into house remodeling, I was hired to clean and paint. THAT’S IT! I tried to get people to teach me and let me learn other bigger things, but nobody wanted to hear it or to give me a chance. All I heard was, “You’re a girl” or “You’re too pretty” or “This is for men.” I would have to do my job and study their every move to teach myself. My boss started letting me try stuff out, and now, here I am — the boss at the same company people tried to hold me back in.

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

My incarceration still affects me both negatively and positively. A lot of people hear my story and see how I live now, and it gives them hope for themselves or for a loved one going down the wrong path. I have a testimony that can reach people who cannot be reached by people who have not struggled or been through the things I have.

On the negative side, there are opportunities that simply pass me by due to my background. Some people will never see the real me because they are blinded by my past.

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

A year before my release, I signed up for Truth Be Told’s Talk to Me class. I had spent six years in prison and tried on my own to process and heal from my past trauma and hadn’t gotten anywhere. I hated myself, and I thought I had nothing to live for. Through the course of the class, I met people who really cared, who helped me find myself, and who helped me come to terms with and heal from my past and better understand how I got where I was. I felt heard. I felt free. I wasn’t afraid anymore. When I walked into that classroom, I was more than an inmate or a screw-up; I was a person, and I was loved no matter how much I tried to keep my walls up with them. They broke through. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

How does Truth Be Told continue to influence your life?

I use the tools I learned in Truth Be Told in my everyday life. When I get down or discouraged, I go back to the lessons I was taught and the wisdom and encouragement Truth Be Told spoke into me. I also try to be a mentor and encourager to other people I have encountered along my way. If I can be half as loving and supportive to them as Truth Be Told was — and continues to be — to me, then I know I’ve done more than enough.

Why is Truth Be Told important and worth supporting?

Truth Be Told is the biggest blessing behind those (prison) walls. I still keep in contact with a few ladies I did time with who took Truth Be Told as well, and we are all out here with a whole new lease on life. The tools Truth Be Told teaches and instills in you are tools you can bring out here and use to better your life and your community. I knew a lot of women in prison before we took Truth Be Told, and I can’t even put into words the transformations that took place. Truth Be Told gives you your identity back. I took every class I could while I was incarcerated, and absolutely none came anywhere close to reaching as many people as Truth Be Told.

Describe the women you met in prison.

I met so many amazing women in prison. When you think of people in prison, you think of horrible, cruel people. But you would be surprised how many sweet, kindhearted, lost women are in there. They messed up, yes. But they just need some guidance and someone to care and show them how to build themselves up. There are so many women I got close to in there who came from abuse and broken homes and didn’t know anything else. My heart breaks for them, because most of them have never been shown simple kindness.

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

I would change how people are treated in prison. I get it; we broke the law. But when you are in prison, you are treated as less than human. The emotional abuse you go through while you are there is horrible.

You are confined to a prison and that, in itself, is the punishment. Most of the women there have family and children they leave behind. We experience watching our children grow up without us. Our parents and loved ones grow old and die without us being able to be there. Eventually, our families move on without us, and they seem to forget us. And then a guard comes in and treats you like an animal. That’s why Truth Be Told is so important. They see the real you; they treat you like a person. I wish there were more programs like Truth Be Told with people who really want to help rehabilitate.

Favorite prison recipe?

Bean and cheese burritos with Ranch dressing.

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Honor Donna 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!

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