Incarcerated almost 4 years over 2 sentences
Free since July 2013
Describe your life today.
I wake up naturally. That is to say, I never use an alarm clock — unless you count two Chihuahuas pawing me, along with my 100-pound Marley Mutt making all kinds of weird noises at 5 a.m. as an alarm clock. Silly dogs.
I drag myself out of bed by 7 a.m. usually. I am physically challenged these days, with a hip that needs replacement surgery, so it takes me quite a while to be able to navigate to the coffee pot. Nothing is going to happen without that first cup of coffee. I love to sit out on my deck to drink my coffee. If my challenged mobility allows, I will water my tomato and pepper plants after coffee.
I have a part-time position as an office manager and personal assistant. My employer has four businesses, which I manage. I spend my day sitting at a computer, balancing the ledgers, answering the phones, doing payroll, answering email queries, and teaching temporary employees their roles as clerks and assistants.
I run personal errands after work, so I won’t have to leave the house once home. My pups are ecstatic to see me and demand attention as soon as I reach the driveway. Once in the house, treats are dispersed, followed by going outside to water the plants while the dogs run and play in the water.
The remainder of the evening is devoted to my various tasks in dog rescue. Much of that work is done online. It is primarily composed of massive networking efforts. Finally, at the end of my day, I relax by reading a book or enjoying a television show or movie.
What are you most proud of since you’ve been free?
I am most proud of my work in animal welfare and rescue. I have fostered nearly 40 dogs since my release (from prison), including a special needs dog born without front paws. “Scooter” delightfully became an adoption fail, becoming a permanent member of my family. He and I represented “wheelie dogs” across the nation. You see, Scooter was fitted with a wheelchair to help his mobility.
I was instrumental in rescuing “Tomek,” a paralyzed dog in Poland. He was not thriving in a shelter there, and someone in rescue in Poland reached out to me on Scooter’s Facebook page to see what could be done for him. I put the Polish group in touch with Posh Pets in Long Island, N.Y. Soon, Tomek was put on a flight bound for the Big Apple. I was thrilled to monitor Tomek’s journey across the Atlantic. It was so exciting to see him being rescued in New York at the airport.
Another group I work with rescues dogs from Iran. They needed to partner with a Houston rescue to continue bringing dogs over from Iran. I was able to put the Iran rescue group in touch with Camo Rescue in Houston. They continue to work together today, saving dogs from deplorable conditions in Iran.
I have hundreds of rescue stories to share. I am proud to have established relationships with people in rescue worldwide. I have earned their respect. I am a trusted associate. I think I am most proud of these relationships forged for a greater good.
Finally, I am so proud to be selected to serve on the El Paso Animal Services Advisory Committee. I was appointed by the city council member representing my region of El Paso. El Paso is making serious strides in becoming a leader in the “no kill” shelter effort. We are focused on educating the public on animal welfare. I am honored to have this opportunity!
I also sit on two nonprofit boards. I serve as secretary for Luna’s Fosters and as chief financial officer for Flame Kingdom Ministry, a veteran-owned nonprofit that focuses on community outreach and is a work in progress.
How does your past incarceration still affect your life today — negatively and/or positively?
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my prison experience. I remember sleeping next to a freezing cinder block wall, totally unable to get warm. I remember being sleep-deprived. Prison memories will never fade. I think of the women I left behind who are still in prison. I correspond with several, hoping to encourage them to hang on. I learned so many lessons and made lifelong friends.
I was determined to make my time count. Truth Be Told impacted me to make lifelong positive changes, while teaching me skills to cope and tools to succeed.
What Truth Be Told program did you experience while incarcerated, and what did you gain from that experience?
I signed up for every Truth Be Told program available during my incarceration. I participated in Talk to Me Movement and Talk to Me Speaking. I also participated in their reentry course, Let’s Get Real, as both a student and a mentor. I participated in numerous Exploring Creativity workshops. Each program allowed me to explore myself, my past, my potential and my truth. I was able to learn what shaped my past and how to shape my future by owning my truth. I realized that I had been living a life with no purpose. I was barely surviving; I certainly wasn’t thriving. I needed a cause to champion in order to excel.
I believe the most important lesson I learned in my Truth Be Told experience is that I am worthy. I have something to contribute to society. I realized I can still be beneficial to my community and that I can do this by sharing my story, not hiding it. Another important thing I discovered is that I had lost my creativity while being under the spell of drug dependence. By participating in their Exploring Creativity workshops, I was able to reach out to the inspiration of stars and recapture the magic of my creativity. What a blessing that has been.
How does Truth Be Told continue to influence your life?
I continue to evolve due to my Truth Be Told experience. Every day, I find ways to relate to lessons learned in my Truth Be Told endeavors. I continue to communicate with other ex-offenders who participated in Truth Be Told through the organization’s Beyond Bars programs, including a secret community on Facebook for program graduates only. I also continue to share my story with confidence with others who may need or want to hear it.
When I first got out of prison, I was paroled to my ex-husband in a city I did not know. I remember calling the Truth Be Told office and talking to the director. I felt like I was in an ocean without a life preserver and with no shore in sight. When I felt close to drowning, I was able to reach out to other Truth Be Told graduates through the weekly Keep on Talking Empowerment calls on Tuesday nights. My Truth Be Told community grounded me. It kept me from being overwhelmed with sensory overload. I am grateful.
Why is Truth Be Told important and worth supporting?
The female incarcerated population is a primarily forgotten community. Truth Be Told is one of the only nonprofits to address the needs of incarcerated women. Their programs teach skills women will need upon release to not only survive without crime, but to thrive as positive influences on their families and communities. Truth Be Told addresses trauma that is specific to women and how to overcome that trauma. Truth Be Told helps women to awaken to their truth: creative, inspiring, trustworthy, fun and full of life. It is important for inmates to have this kind of experience.
Describe the women you met in prison.
Every woman I met while in prison had a story to tell. Some of those stories were full of heartbreak and abuse. These women were survivors. They were unbelievably adaptable and fun-loving. The most important thing every woman sought was respect. Some were more empathetic than others. Some were more sociable than others.
Some held their stories close to their hearts. Others felt a need to share their stories to whomever would listen. I am not only talking about inmates. I am also talking about guards working overtime in harsh conditions. I am talking about the program volunteers who shared their free time each week to bring hope inside a prison. All have a story to tell and, if you listen, you will learn how much we have in common. Oh, imagine the relief these women feel when they take off their masks and live their truth.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the correctional system, what would you change and why?
I would change the power that the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole has. Many defendants submit a plea, and the judge specifies at sentencing when he or she thinks the defendant should make parole. The parole board regularly ignores the wisdom of the sentencing judge.
Another thing I would change about the system is the power that a protestor has over the time an inmate will serve. I think the number of years a protestor can protest the release of an inmate ought to be limited to five years in the case of nonviolent offenses, such as embezzlement. Serving longer than five years for a nonviolent crime is not serving justice; it is one citizen getting revenge over another. The offender can begin to make restitution upon release. A 15-year sentence or more for embezzlement is not justice. This kind of sentence leaves a family without its mother or grandmother, punishing an entire family.
Finally, I rarely got fresh fruit while incarcerated. Surely, the prison system can find the means to regularly disperse fruit to the incarcerated community.
Favorite prison recipe?
I was not a gourmet cook in prison. Primarily, I bought ingredients for others to cook. I do remember having fun one Thanksgiving. Several of us gathered cornbread off the dinner trays and then added cheese, summer sausage and jalapenos to make an embellished cornbread stuffing. My, my! It was amazing!
Honor Kay 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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