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DAY 4 of $30,000 in 10 Days: Hear Leslie’s Truth


Leslie
Program graduate
Incarcerated 4 years over 2 sentences
Free since May 2008

Describe your life today.

I often giggle, because I tell people my life is boring. I spend as much time as I can with my husband and children. My days are usually filled with my family and our dogs. It truly is a life that I never imagined.

I work for an amazing restaurant group, and they are very supportive of me. It’s an historic, iconic place that I absolutely love. I get to work with a staff that is primarily made up of college students, and they call me “The Mom.” A lot of them are away from home for the first time. I help them navigate through difficult times, and I encourage them to take a good look at the choices they’re making. I am always offering encouragement, because many of them are paying 100 percent of their college tuition and learning how to manage their finances and be responsible and independent. I love those kiddos like no one’s business; they keep me inspired and young.

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

I’m most proud of being able to restore my relationships with my two daughters. Consistency was the key there — especially with my oldest. She had a lot of resentment toward me.

When I came back from prison, I never thought I would have the girls back full time. I had come to terms that, because of my own self-destructive choices, our relationship had deteriorated beyond repair. But luckily, my sister was open to doing supervised visitations. I would meet my sister and the girls at a park, and I’d always have an activity for us to do together. But it wasn’t about the activity. It was about the conversations we had. I wanted my daughters to have the opportunity to ask me all the questions they needed to ask for their own healing. I wanted them to be able to yell at me and scream at me and to feel whatever they needed to feel.

It was on the anniversary of the day that I was sentenced to prison that my sister let me take my daughters to lunch and a movie. Just us. It was raining so we couldn’t go to the park. Eventually, they got to spend the night with me. I’ll never forget my oldest daughter walking into the kitchen and saying: “I don’t trust you, and I don’t believe in this ‘new you.’ I’m here because my sister wants me to be here.” I didn’t get upset. I just told her that I understood. I said, “All I ask is that you are present with me today. The person you see today is the person you will get 10 years from now.” She said: “We’ll see about that.” And we have lived into it day by day.

I suppose the other thing I’m proud of is the advocacy work I’ve done to support other women. I’ve mentored women coming out of prison and who have survived domestic violence. One of the women I mentored, I went through cancer with her. I was there for her first chemo treatment and on the day she passed. Every December, we adopt a family and provide Christmas for them. One year, we adopted another Truth Be Told graduate whose apartment had caught on fire.

I’ve also testified at the state Capitol. I advocated to ban the box (on job applications that asks applicants if they have been arrested and/or convicted). I don’t think someone’s past should preemptively disqualify them.

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

I went through the Making Connections program offered at Travis County Correctional Complex. In that class, you learn a lot in a short amount of time. I gained the ability to know how to seek help from my community when I need it and how to use the resources that are available. I also learned to speak up for myself when I’d rather be quiet about my past.

How does Truth Be Told continue to influence your life?

I stay connected through Truth Be Told’s beyond bars program. Having a community of other Truth Be Told graduates, where I know at any time I can send an email, a text or make a call and have an army of others who get what I am going through, big or small, is huge. To have a support system truly looking out for your best interest is such a rare opportunity nowadays.

Why is Truth Be Told important and worth supporting?

Truth Be Told is worth supporting because we graduates are real people, and we are making a real difference in our communities. We are women who are making the decision to refuse to be released back into our past circumstances. Truth Be Told programs are not forced upon the incarcerated women who participate. They must seek out and apply to take these classes and then put in the work.

Describe the women you met in prison.

Beautiful and vulnerable. Not one woman you ever meet behind bars dreamed of being there. The backstories of how they ended up in prison is something I wish everyone could hear.

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

Only one? I would have a way for incarcerated women and men to keep more of the money made off of their prison labor. This would enable them to save more money and have a better chance at supporting themselves and successfully reintegrating once they leave prison.

Favorite prison recipe?

World’s pickiest eater here. I don’t really have a favorite recipe. I was just happy to eat fresh fruit when I could. Sadly, fresh fruit is a huge luxury in prison.

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Honor Leslie 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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