“When I entered the NMCD facility in Grants, I was only 17 years old, and I entered with a sentence of 21 years. Needless to say, I was terrified, lonely, and feeling very depressed about my circumstances. I didn’t know how was going to do my time, I didn’t know who I would become, and I was living in a world of uncertainty. Little did I know that the NMCD facility would be the place where I found peace, purpose, and much-needed healing.
In my first year at the facility, I was enrolled in college and working towards a degree in psychology. Education helped me to set goals and strive to meet them. In the second year, I was programming for Fire and Safety, and I learned job skills that would later support my future employment. In my 3rd year, I was invited to join an innovative program from Project ECHO called the New Mexico Peer Education Project (NMPEP) through the University of New Mexico and this was, bar none, the most transformational opportunity I had in my entire life, not just my incarceration. It supported the healing and peace I so desperately needed.
NMPEP’s why statement is: We believe that redemption is the solution; that time spent incarcerated should be an opportunity to regain a healthier and more productive life. With the backing of NMCD, that is exactly what I was able to do with the remainder of my sentence. I was able to use my time to challenge myself to reflect on and apply practices to become healthier and to heal from my past wrongdoings. This was instrumental in preparing me to transition safely back into the community. When I was granted parole, I was almost 25 years old, and I had the confidence, skills, and self-efficacy to transition back into society to be a productive member of the community.
Today, 8 ½ years after my release, I am proud to say I completed my supervision terms, I work for Project ECHO doing similar work as NMPEP out in the community, and I continue my higher education at UNM. If NMCD had not supported the NMPEP program, I don’t know how my story would have ended. Because of that, I am forever grateful and committed to helping others find peace, purpose, and healing.”
“A mentor told me that incarceration could be one of the greatest gifts I ever receive, but that it was up to me to use it as a gift. I found this to be true. Thankfully, I also encountered many helpful programs during my time in prison.
I did my best to participate in every class that I possibly could. I learned so much from classes like RDAP and Critical Thinking. I attended reentry classes and workshops. I began my lifelong dream of attending college and completing an associate degree. I was trained by Project ECHO to be a Peer Health Educator. I was permitted to start my own Yoga classes and even a writing club that included the club members’ family members. We had a banquet for our family and acknowledged how difficult it is to have someone you care about in prison.
Being eight years out now, I appreciate all the opportunities. But what I appreciate most are the people who filled these roles and made these programs possible. I will be forever grateful to the dedicated staff that I was fortunate to get to learn from and work with.”‘
“The New Mexico Corrections Department has been instrumental in my recovery and success of my organization, “Women in Leadership “ (WIL). Through the organization, we help women who are impacted by the criminal justice system directly, or indirectly. We also organize job and resource fairs, which take place inside of the prisons. Without the work I do with the women and men inside the Corrections Department, I don’t know where my life would be right now. I lost my son the first day I arrived in prison, and my Mom died just eight months later. I didn’t want to live anymore, but the other women and corrections staff rallied around me, and they helped me through some dark days. There were many nights when I would lay in bed and pray to God that if He gave me a chance to change my life, I would return to the prison system to help change lives for the better.
Working with the prison system is a part of my everyday recovery. I could not do this without the Corrections Department staff. This work has transformed my life and has given me a purpose and joy that I had lost when my child died.
I stand here today as a shining example of what can happen if you buy into the idea of rehabilitation. This gives me hope and belief that anyone can change their life, with the help of the community. I am so grateful for the opportunity to go back into an institution where I did time and pay it forward – to help others in the same place where I once was.”