At a time when I was my most vulnerable, new to prison, for an unpopular crime, I was embraced and cared for by women who, by society’s standards, were the worst of the worst. They were convicted of what the media called the most heinous crimes. Yet when I was cold, they clothed me. When I was hungry, they fed me. And when I was weak, they held me. I found women who truly wanted better, for themselves and their children, but lacked the skills and support to get them there. I often wondered why I was placed in their path and what I could do to help.
When Vanessa Thompson, a woman I had gotten to know over the years, asked me to be part of a group challenged with the mission to develop her vision and create a program that would help women to reenter society successfully, I couldn’t say no. We began toiling over U.S. housing policy, meeting with different members of community organizations, and discussing what might be the key components of a successful program. Our research supported our own inclinations: housing and employment are the biggest indicators of whether or not a woman will make it or go back to prison. We believed marrying these two concerns with intensive character building and therapeutic services would create the ultimate program. And thus COF was born.
COF has not only given me a way to give back and serve others, it has fostered a restored hope in what good work can one day be associated with my name. Working with COF has made me feel like I have value and worth, not in spite of where I’ve been, but because of where I’ve been. A little over ten years ago when I was arrested, I never could have imagined that I would one day be walking the halls of the Statehouse, meeting with policy makers and working on bills that will change laws. I am just one person, a felon and a failure, yet with COF I am able. Able to change. Able to serve. Able to affect change.