$100k in 10 Days Fundraiser-Featuring our Truth Be Told Graduate Leslie
Thank you for joining us for the first day of our featured graduate stories. In addition to the daily videos of our graduates telling their story, we are also posting a daily blog where our graduates share even more about their journey to transformation.
This is Leslie. Leslie has been free since 2019. Today, Leslie is owning her truth, “the good, the bad, and everything in between.”
TBT: What do you want people to know about incarceration and the criminal justice system?
Leslie: I want people to know that it’s time to break the stigmas surrounding incarceration. Most people are unaware of the day to day issues incarcerated women face. And why would they? Unless you’ve been directly impacted by it. But this is how we bring about change… bringing awareness and advocating for those that don’t have a voice.
The transformations these women make are of their own sheer determination and will. It has nothing to do with the prison system. The prison system fails when it comes to rehabilitation and reintegrating into society. So when you’ve met someone whose success story includes incarceration, just know that their success is just that: theirs. They did the hard work, the heavy lifting and made the conscious decision to turn their life around and paid whatever the cost was.
Prison saved my life… but it was the work I did that made that life worth living.
TBT: What is your favorite motto, phrase, or affirmation?
Leslie: You can’t be better if you don’t know better.
Generational curses, cycles of trauma… All of these things can make healing so difficult. More often than not, we find ourselves in situations that we have no clue how to get out of. I had no idea how to stop using drugs, how to stop myself from getting into situations that ultimately led me to jail… so I learned. I read the books, took the classes, and talked to other women like myself. See, I couldn’t be a better person because I didn’t know how to. But it was up to me to learn the tools I needed to become the person I wanted to be.
TBT: Out of all the work that you did with Truth Be Told, what is the most memorable lesson or tool that you still use to this day.
Leslie: There’s so many… but I think the tool I use the most is one of the most basic – holding space. Holding space for others, my feelings, and even for myself. I’ve spent most of my life trying to make myself smaller… easier to deal with. I tried to ignore my feelings, acting like emotions weren’t a thing for me. The day I learned to hold space… to just allow myself to feel whatever it was I needed to feel, was absolutely life changing for me. I became a better person by learning how to hold space for others.
TBT: We are all one choice away from incarceration. Describe one choice from your past that put you on the path to incarceration.
Leslie: I fully believe that we are all one decision away from a completely different life. That being said, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which decision led me to my incarceration. My incarcerations were a direct result of my drug addiction. I never woke up one day and decided that was the day I was going to become addicted to heroin. I think the decision to keep my addiction a secret is what ultimately led me to prison. The decision to not seek help, to try to numb the emotions that I didn’t want to deal with, earned me an all expenses paid vacation, courtesy of the state of Texas.
TBT: What are you excited about or looking forward to in the future?
Leslie: Getting married to the man that taught me that love is actually kind and patient.
TBT: Tell us about your best and worst day in prison.
Leslie: My best day in prison was the day I shared my story in the Truth Be Told classroom. I was absolutely terrified to bare my soul to these women whom I barely knew. But that was the day I learned what true freedom was. I may have been behind bars, but it was the first time I experienced absolute freedom.
My worst day in prison was when I had to have surgery at the prison hospital in Galveston. There is no one to comfort you and tell you everything is going to be ok. I was terrified and there was nothing I could do. I had surgery and was allowed to stay in a hospital bed for about 9 hours. Then at 4 am, I was sent to wait on a wooden bench until the bus arrived at 5 pm. There was no recovery time, no discussion of what was going to happen before or after. I was just another inmate, herded in and herded out. I’ve never felt so alone in my life.
You can show your support for Leslie and other TBT Graduates by donating to our $100K in 10 days fundraiser between November 30 – December 9. Up to $40,000 in gifts made during the next 10 days will be matched dollar-for dollar. Your donation helps disrupt the cycle of trauma and incarceration among women. Click here to make your donation today.