Reconnecting with community and society can be challenging for many people who return home post incarceration. Although I was fortunate enough to come home to a job, a loving and supportive family, something was still missing. While I was thrilled to be home, I had to gradually recognize and admit that the stress associated with enduring a lengthy trial, serving an extended prison sentence and challenging the numerous collateral consequences associated with post prison transitioning had taken its toll on me.
My personality and skills enabled me to connect to a new professional network. I was also able to blend into suburban living again. I was focused. No, I was unrelenting in my drive to build Mission: Launch and reestablish my professional career in a different industry. Yet, something was still missing.
I longed for my secondary family; they are people who do not share my DNA and yet, over the course of nearly 5 years of living together, I became connected to them a deep and meaningful way. Some of the most resilient and thoughtful women I’ve ever met in my life, I met at Alderson Federal Prison Camp. We had a synergy; there was a shared and often borrowed strength among the group of women I befriended. Regardless of what we were going through, we reminded each other that endurance was vital for our journey.
I missed their levels of drive, grit and encouragement, so when the JustLeadershipUSA opportunity showed up in my life, I jumped at it. I intuitively knew this was a connection I not only wanted but quite frankly needed. I even prayed that the members of the selection committee would be able to see my natural traits of leadership, even though time had made them somewhat dull.
The day before Christmas (December 24, 2014) I was selected for the inaugural cohort of JustLeadershipUSA. I was grateful. As cliché as it might sound, I felt like a kid on Christmas day. To me the news was a clear sign, my New Year would be remarkably different. I recall staying up late reading the entire Just Leadership website. I read as much as I could about the founder, Glenn Martin, a formerly incarcerated person; he also had worked hard to restore his human capital. I was excited, because Glenn had the foresight to bring formerly incarcerated leaders, who had firsthand knowledge based upon experience, to advocate for mass incarceration’s disruptive end.
Being a part of the JustLeadershipUSA 2015 cohort provided me with much more than leadership training, it connected me to a family of bold and audacious leaders; they are people who understand what it’s like to build a new life for yourself, while simultaneously working to advocate for criminal justice reform, post incarceration transition strategies and voicing the concerns of many others who remain in prison for entirely too long.