You may not care at all about who is incarcerated—many people firmly believe that if a person commits a crime, they should pay for it. I get it. I also felt that way too until my 20-year-old son was arrested, incarcerated, and housed in San Quentin for stealing a cello. It shattered me. I had always thought individuals received felonies for mainly violent crimes until I looked into it further. The most common felonies include—drug abuse/use of illegal drugs, property crimes, burglary, public drunkenness, fraud, and forgery—these are all the types of crimes that active drug users commonly commit. It is no wonder that half the prison population is under the age of 34.
As I’ve shared, being the mother of a drug addict is both challenging and extremely painful. I know that many people judge me and that some people may view me as a failure for not “properly” raising my son. There is shaming, trust me. However, I will never give up on my son. That said, what he and other incarcerated addicts need is a second chance and an opportunity to rebuild a broken life. If you are tired of seeing people on the street and you want a better world, then realize that you have the power to improve the lives of others by encouraging your workplace to be more inclusive. I am proud to work for a company like Xactly, an organization willing to offer employment opportunities that authentically promote diversity and inclusion.
There is power in giving a second chance, and it is not about enabling; rather it is all about believing in the potential of someone who is sick with addiction and as a result, has made terrible choices.
The road from prison to “freedom” is arduous for most, which is why Televerde Foundation is so critical. Giving women a second chance and good-paying jobs is the key to empowerment—62% of incarcerated women in the US are mothers of minor children, and they need to raise their children effectively to break these destructive cycles. Many incarcerated women (over 60 percent) have been subjected to abuse and suffer from trauma. It is nearly impossible to move forward in life if there is no opportunity for betterment. You certainly can’t get beyond past mistakes without self-confidence.
I believe that the first step in being able to transform begins with forgiveness and self-love. As a result, the team at Televerde Foundation and I worked together to create a workshop for the women in the program. This offers a vital first step and an opportunity to explore in-depth what it means to be a pillar for yourself.
The workshop series “Communicating with Confidence” was designed to set women up for success on “the outside” by shifting their patterns of self-talk and communication. The premise was simple—all of us are full of insecurities and self-doubt, regardless of our role or stature or lack thereof. The most powerful aspect of the program was realizing how much these women yearn for opportunity and acceptance. They are gracious and humble, and they need people like you and me to believe in them. Can you imagine how powerful that could be?
Here are responses to the workshop; you can feel the genuine humility and desire for betterment:
“This conversation came at the right time, with just the right message… I am not one of the lucky ones getting out soon. However, I AM getting out of here eventually—so even if this isn’t my time, I attend every workshop, every class, every meeting with the desire to learn something new. To become a better me. Even though life gives us trials and heartache—with enough love of self, love of others, and resilience, we can overcome this.”
Another woman shared:
“Your vote of confidence in me and my peers means the world to us. Most of us have been overlooked, forgotten or convinced that we just aren’t good enough. Unconditional love, we all want it, but most of us think that we are unworthy of it. I will keep telling myself that I deserve better, because now I see that I do.”
When we do not give people second chances, an incredible amount of potential is lost. How much longer should a person be punished after being released from prison? Should drug-related crimes come with life-time sentences?
There can be successful outcomes when we choose to give second chances. Televerde Foundation is empowering women to stay out of prison, and with these kinds of programs we can actually reduce recidivism, homelessness and crime —let’s create a brighter future for us all!
Please reach out if you want to become involved and take a minute to learn more if you’re so inclined.
By: Mary Jo Rose
Mary Jo Rose is the Global VP of Communications at Xactly Corporation. She is a creative, high-energy communications professional, with extensive experience developing compelling customer stories and vibrant brands.