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Incarcerated 16 months
Free since May 2015
Describe your life today.
Today, my world is very busy with a career in the hospitality field and taking care of family. I also volunteer my time with Truth Be Told. Several times I have gone back into prison to be a volunteer Respectful Witness for the women telling their stories at (the Talk to Me program) graduation. I want to let them know that I was once in their shoes. I want them to know that they have a support system with Truth Be Told when they get out. We are a community, and we are here for each other.
I also volunteer my time at community events like Very Merry Mail Call and the annual Changemakers dinner to help raise awareness about our nonprofit organization and to encourage donations to help support the programs.
What are you most proud of since you’ve been free?
I’m most proud of the relationships that I have restored and the positive ones I have gained since my release. I was honored when my mother joined me as a Respectful Witness at a Truth Be Told graduation. It helped our relationship grow. Even though my mother has never heard my full story, there is an understanding and connection between us now.
How does your past incarceration still affect your life today — negatively and/or positively?
Even with a great career, I cannot get a nice apartment to rent due to being a felon. But, on the positive side, I am free to be part of Truth Be Told’s beyond bars community and to try and help the next woman get back on her feet when she is released (from prison). Secondly, because of my memories of being locked up, I do not want to go back.
What Truth Be Told program did you experience while incarcerated, and what did you gain from that experience?
I was in the Talk to Me Speaking program, which helped me learn how to tell my story. I graduated in the spring of 2015 right before I was released on parole. I learned how to set safe and positive boundaries and how to speak my truth without being ashamed. I also learned better communication skills. I learned how to look inside and see how I am really feeling without the passive answer of “I am OK.”
The tools I learned in Truth Be Told help me balance my life today. These tools help me to have positive relationships and to surround myself with women who understand my struggles without judgment.
How does Truth Be Told continue to influence your life?
Truth Be Told helped me be a better person. Without having Truth Be Told enter into my life while I was incarcerated, I honestly do not know what kind of woman I would have been when I got released. This organization has helped me more than I can put into words. I am very grateful for the things I learned while being in Truth Be Told classes; I still use the tools today to keep myself safe, sober and free.
Why is Truth Be Told important and worth supporting?
Truth Be Told is worth supporting because it builds positive healthy relationships. It teaches women to have a voice without being ashamed of her past mistakes. Truth Be Told gives women a safe, positive community to speak freely with support and no judgment.
I believe that Truth Be Told should be a part of every incarcerated woman’s life. Also, if Truth Be Told programs were offered to young women before they got incarcerated, I believe we might not grow up with a lot of the struggles that we have as women.
Describe the women you met in prison.
I met women in prison just like me; we shared a lot of the same struggles. Our stories were not the same, but they were similar enough that, in every woman’s story, I could identify with something in some shape, form or fashion.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the correctional system, what would you change and why?
This is a hard question to answer, because the entire system needs to be rethought. If it made sense to do it one way, the system has done it totally opposite. It is so outdated for certain classroom teachings that it does not help anyone.
Favorite prison recipe?
Cherry Dr. Pepper cheesecake
1 can of Cherry Dr. Pepper
1 or 2 packages of powdered milk
1 package of vanilla crème-filled cookies
2 bowls, if possible
an empty chip bag
To make cake:
1. Take cookies apart and scrape the icing into one of the bowls.
2. Place the two sides of each cookie in an empty chip bag for crushing later.
3. After all cookies are split apart and the icing is in the bowl, pour a small amount of Cherry Dr. Pepper into the bowl with the icing and mix until smooth.
4. Add 1.5 packages of powdered milk to icing mixture. Add more Dr. Pepper to mix until smooth.
To make crust:
1. While cake mixture is sitting, crush up the cookies in the chip bag until almost nothing.
2. Pour crushed cookies into a second bowl if available. If not, use the chip bag.
3. Mix the crumbs with a little bit of Cherry Dr. Pepper to make the crust. Only add a little soda at a time.
4. Pack crust firmly in the bowl (or chip bag).
To serve: Add the cake mix onto the cookie crust and let sit for three to four hours because there’s no fridge to put cheesecake in! Cut and serve.
Honor Sandra 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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