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Truth Be Told Spring Graduations and Gone For Good

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By Kathleen Littlepage, Truth Be Told Interim Executive Director

There is no better way to learn more about Truth Be Told and our programs than attending a graduation.

Right now, we are filling spaces in the last two spring graduations: Talk To Me and Discovery at Hilltop Unit in Gatesville is May 16, and Discovery at GEO Lockhart Unit is May 23. We need about two weeks to process the prison paperwork for the attendees, so please let us know as soon as possible that you want to attend. For more information, contact Carol Waid at carol (at) or (512) 292-6200.

On Friday April 4, a group of about 20 from Austin met up at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, but it wasn’t all about the barbecue. After lunch and some visiting, Katie Ford, a Truth Be Told facilitator, prepared us for the short trip we were about to make to the GEO Lockhart Unit for a graduation. It was routine for the TBT facilitators but a completely new experience for a journalism graduate student, a school counselor, a psychiatric nurse, a stay-at-home mom, a former DPS officer, a UT professor, and the rest of the assembled. We listened carefully as Katie described how we would be processed into the prison and what the event would be like.

The three spring Talk To Me classes were ready to graduate 31 women. They had all spent eight weeks learning how to tell their life stories— not the stories of their convictions but the larger stories of how they became who they are.

The women had all chosen one of the three Talk To Me formats, speaking, writing, or movement. Many of the women had never participated in a graduation, although a few had some higher education, but the occasion marked completion of an intense personal journey of discovery for all. We were there to be respectful listeners to enlarge the safe communities they had built in class.

In the auditorium, the guests and graduates mingled and sat together while waiting for the ceremony to begin. This was my third graduation, but it had been several years since the last one. Ginger McGilvray’s movement class began with a group performance to a rendition of Motherless Child, and I remembered how deep these women go and that I was about to go on that journey with them. Three women from the speaking class and three from the writing class told their stories. I heard about a father who was a drug dealer, a mother who left, a brother who took her innocence, a girl who knew she was pretty, a child who died mysteriously, bad choices, and struggles with addiction. Pain, loss, mistakes, hopes, and redemption all tumbled out together. When Donna Snyder began calling the names of her 12 students in the speaking class, I was so thankful and ready for the upbeat mood of the women celebrating their accomplishments. After some guests chose to share their thoughts in the closing circle, we ended with laughter as we each said our name, a one word feeling, and a gesture that the entire group then repeated.

I agreed with the guest who said, “I am comforted to know that some of the people that we incarcerate have access to moments that will make a difference in their lives.” And I wanted to add, “…and make a difference in our lives.”

Kay Rosenkranz, who was released from prison in 2013, wrote about her experience with three Truth Be Told classes, “Graduation day was so special for me. I became an emotional basket case that day too. I was so surprised to see that people from the ‘free world’ were inspired to tears by what we did that day and the stories we shared. More surprising was learning how many other women had stories to tell and how those stories impacted their lives. I found hope in learning I had so much in common with these women. I remember thinking that if only we could harness this goodwill, this human commonality, and this energy, what a world we could then create!”

Gone For Good Supports Truth Be Told

On April 1, Gone For Good presented Truth Be Told with a $2,500 grant award at a lovely luncheon at Chez Nous. Kathleen Littlepage and Carol Waid were there to accept the check from the three founders, Retta Van Auken, Gail Miller, and Sandy Rotman. IMG_3049

Gone For Good is a nonprofit with a simple but clever model to help other nonprofits. Individuals donate items of value that they no longer want. Gone for Good sells the items and donates the proceeds, less a handling fee, to the charity chosen by the individual, who in turn gets a tax deduction. Gone For Good has a booth at the Antique Marketplace, and they sell items online. They also organize and manage estate sales.

Gone For Good was started three years ago by these three Austin women and has made over $150,000 in cash and in-kind donations. For the first time this year, Gone For Good used some accumulated funds to award grants to five small local nonprofits, and Truth Be Told is fortunate to be in that group. We are grateful to Gone For Good for their hard work and generosity and for choosing to support Truth Be Told.

Please keep Gone For Good in mind as new way to support Truth Be Told next time you want to give some items a new home. We love playing a part in their mission to sell worldly treasures to do a world of good.

Truth Be Told is Amplified and Grateful for Recent Blessings

This was our first year to participate in Amplify Austin and we had no idea what to expect.

We started with what we thought was an ambitious goal of $10,000. Our supporters spread the message, and we reached that goal before the 24-hour giving period began at 6 p.m. on March 20th. We set a new goal of $15,000. At 6 p.m. on March 21st, the official end of Amplify Austin, we had raised over $18,000. But the gifts kept coming…at 10:25 p.m. we closed the day with a total of $20,686.00 and have received a few more contributions since then.


 We are humbled and inspired by the generosity of old friends and new supporters who were moved to give. We’ve also learned a few things. The $5,705,808 raised by I Live Here, I Give Here during Amplify proves they are on to something with the crowd-sourcing model that relies on networking through social media. We discovered that watching our total run-up on their live leader board during the giving period feels like hitting the mega jackpot on a giant slot machine. Our high number of donors, 250, and the many new names particularly encouraged us; they came from 19 states and Canada. The final lesson is that a personal appeal really makes a difference. We have Carol Waid to thank for beating the drum until we had 29 personal fundraising campaigns. More than three quarters of the funds we raised came from those pages. We are already strategizing for Amplify Austin 2015.

Staying with Our Joyful Theme of Abundance

Office Workers Clapping at Office PartyJourney, Imperfect Faith Community has been a faithful supporter of Truth Be Told and we are buoyed by their belief in our programs and the women we serve. Thank you Journey, IFC for the $1,000 we used as matching funds for Amplify Austin.

Each month, the University Catholic Center takes up what they call a “black bag collection” and sends it to a nonprofit. This is the second year they have chosen Truth Be Told as one of the recipients. Thank you University Catholic Center for your $591 donation that means so much to a nonprofit our size.

Note from Kathleen Littlepage, New Interim Executive Director

Kathleen Littlepage

Kathleen Littlepage

I have been facilitating a weekly Truth Be Told class at the Travis County jail in Del Valle for six years and have been the TBT program coordinator for that facility, which is officially known as the Travis County Correctional Complex (TCCC). In February, I decided to volunteer a little extra time to help TBT with administrative work. Carol Waid is the Director of Programs and has been the acting Executive Director and only paid TBT employee for two years. I had so much fun working with Carol on Amplify Austin and other projects that we wanted to find a way for me to stay on. The TBT Board agreed to contract with me to serve part-time as the Interim Executive Director.

I feel so lucky to be spending more time where my passion is and to be even more involved with the community that believes that incarcerated women can build new lives given the tools and support. This is a transitional time for TBT. We are focused on building our organizational capacity so that we can serve more women for a long time to come. That is why the first half of this message is about fundraising. In partnership with the Board, I will be working on diversifying and increasing our fundraising efforts to secure our future service.

Recently, it seems that TBT has been “discovered.” We receive a steady stream of inquiries from potential volunteers, correctional facilities, and other agencies and organizations with similar missions. This is in response to some presentations we made, and I believe it is also a result of the increasing public awareness of the value of rehabilitative programs for the large prison population. Over the last 14 years, TBT has had steady measured growth. We plan to continue that thoughtful path and discern the opportunities that are the best fit for our organization. I’ll be writing grant applications and looking for collaborations and partnerships. Please let me know if you have suggestions for beneficial connections or fundraising opportunities by contacting me at

Thank you!

We’ve Met our Amplify Austin $10K Goal – Keep the Momentum Going!

Ready or not, here comes the 24-hour online fundraiser! Amplify Austin is Thursday, 6:00 p.m. to Friday, 6:00 p.m.

Amplify Austin_UFCU_LogoTruth Be Told supporters have energized the build up to Thursday by creating their own fundraising campaigns, reaching out to their networks, scheduling donations, and raising matching funds. We are on track to meet our $10,000 goal, but like any race, we need a strong finish. And what feels better than exceeding a goal? Please continue to spread the good news about our work with incarcerated women and help us to Amplify Truth Be Told.

It is wonderful to see the 27 “Friend of Truth Be Told” personal fundraising campaigns that take up two whole pages on the Amplify site. We are definitely in the running for the $5,000 prize that goes to the nonprofit with the most fundraising campaigns. It is easy to get excited about the numbers aspects of this event; it gets the competitive juices flowing. Of course, the real value of Truth Be Told is in the stories, not the numbers. We have five Truth Be Told graduates who have taken the time to create fundraising pages to give back to an organization that has supported them. Please visit their pages and consider donating to one of their campaigns.

Produced by Firelight Films

Kay_reduced imageKay has been out for 9 months and she is supporting us from El Paso, TX.  She is active in our Beyond Bars Program, and makes efforts to connect and support, in spite of a very busy life with a new job, new dog, and new car, new home, and renewed life.

Kay shared in a recent interview:

“When I first got out, I found that between classes I would lose momentum. The Keep on Talking Empowerment Group is very important to me. This last week the toastmaster spoke about the three elements of fear: motivation, sabotage: paralysis. I identified with the paralysis. I’d never looked at fear as being a motivator, so I’m still learning. This week, instead of hiding behind the computer and turning in applications online, I turned in an application in person and got two interviews. During the second interview, I was told I would be called back. I had to take tests and reveal my history.

I had to work at having a different attitude. I had to go and try because I have all these years of experience to offer. I have to use self-talking to encourage myself. It turned out to be a three-hour interview. It was a good experience. I turned fear into a motivator.”  Kay did not get the job, after that 3-hour interview, but she used that experience to continue in her job pursuit and soon landed an amazing job in the pharmacogenomics field.”

IMG_0276Lauren just received her quilt (handmade quilts, by Doyle & Peggy Chandler, are given at the 3-year mark to honor this significant anniversary) to celebrate her three-year anniversary of being home with her husband and three boys.  Lauren is also very active in re-entry efforts and uses her voice, at places like the legislature, to change laws that affect successful re-entry.

“Some people, who haven’t had the privilege of experiencing what Truth Be Told does, may not be able to fully understand what it is that they do. Some people might think that these women are just good citizens visiting people in prison – they would be wrong. Truth Be Told is healing entire communities by going into the jails and prisons to work with incarcerated women and transforming their lives. This work is creating a ripple effect into the communities that these women are going home to.”

Jessicka_reduced imageJess has a two-year-old son and is expecting her second son, and has returned to college since being released in 2008.  She stays connected and supportive from New Mexico.

“Truth Be Told is more than just three words to me – it’s a way of life, my way of life, and is only made possible because of the Truth Be Told program. …..Lost, scared, and alone I walked into her classroom not knowing what to expect but knowing I wanted and needed out of that prison cell to find something more. What I found was something that I will use and carry for the rest of my life. My main purpose for signing up was to find an escape but what I left with was something I don’t think anyone expected, Me, the true me.

The woman I am today is because of Truth Be Told.…The woman my sons will look up to, who they will turn to for love, guidance and acceptance. That is something I never would have learned to give without the help of Truth Be Told…Not only did I find myself inside that classroom, I found a community of sisters, who are always there for me.”

487726_4040562106338_565547446_nCara married the man of her dreams, is the mother of two and has a job that she loves where they love her. Cara was released from prison in 2009, and she was released from parole supervision 18 months early, because of how well she is doing. She is significant in our Beyond Bars Program and continues to carry the message to inform others about change and transformation.

“I am one of those Women! I went into prison a girl, lost, afraid and without my voice. I didn’t have any idea who I was or how I got to into the mess I was in. One day I chose to get out of my prison cell and go to a class. Having no clue that I was walking into a classroom that would forever change ME! I don’t think I even knew how to tell the truth, let alone MY TRUTH. The facilitator gave me a journal, a tool to let it all out. I started writing and hardly stopped! I learned to use my body to express feelings I could not name. Through the tools of journaling, moving, trusting my community, vulnerability (yes that’s a tool) and truth telling I learned all about me.

I use these tools on a daily basis with my children. We shake our arms and let the ugly feelings out. We punch the air when we are angry or upset. We have jazz hands when we are happy. We communicate ALL THE TIME about EVERYTHING!

I am an active member of the Truth Be Told Beyond bars program and utilize the opportunities Truth Be Told offers to keep me in my community, to lean on the support system we have built together. I say YES YES YES to myself, my children and my community. Why do I say YES, I say YES YES YES because Truth Be Told said YES YES YES YES YES YES to me. Over and over again they embraced me and loved me. Through it all they taught me to love myself. To love myself enough to change from the inside out. I went through a major renovation while in prison. I am proud of who I am today. I choose to be the person I am today. The renovations are not over of course but that is why I stay connected!”

14890_3642356796464_943046330_nDara has found her voice and has been an inspiration to the Truth Be Told Beyond Bars work. Several times a year, Dara goes into prison to share her experience, strength and hope.  Her message, “you can begin again,” highlights the importance of not giving up, as the miracles are weaving their way in the hard work and determination.  Dara’s story is about embracing integrity. Dara was release in November 2010 with only a sixth-grade education.  She enrolled in ACC, and will graduate in August with a degree in General Human Services as a Phi Thetta Kappa HONOR STUDENT!

“HATE, CHAOS and ANGER that was my truth for 32 years. Truth Be Told created a place for me to admit that truth…admitting that part of me that wasn’t so pretty helped me to get underneath all that and realize I really didn’t hate, I HURT. Being vulnerable, exposing ALL those secrets, telling MY TRUTH about everything…started the process of RENOVATING my life…TRUTH BE TOLD helped start that process.

PRISON doesn’t teach telling the truth; in fact PRISON enforces “silence.”… THEN you walk into a TRUTH BE TOLD class and you LEARN that you have voice…you LEARN slowly to trust…you LEARN to really accept the truth about yourself…you LEARN to cry…you LEARN that it’s okay…you LEARN to laugh…you LEARN that you’re worth it…you start to heal from the inside…you LEARN to like yourself…you LEARN to like others…you LEARN to love yourself…you LEARN to love others…you LEARN tools that help you build a life that is strong…tools that help build a strong community…tools that enable you to have integrity…tools that help you LIVE on the “OUTSIDE”…TOOLS THAT CAN STOP RECIDIVISM!”

We have 23 Amplify pages. Our goal is 33. Can you help us raise funds? Can you donate?

We are seven days from the 2014 Amplify Austin 24-hour giving day, which starts at 6pm on Thursday, March 20, and ends at 6pm on Friday, March 21.

You can preset your donation right now!! Click here to donate now —


Our big financial goal is to raise $10,000, and so far through early donations, we have raised $4,000 — thus Amplifying Truth Be Told!

Our bonus goal is to win the $5,000 prize for having the most Personal Fundraising Campaign pages.  We have 23 such pages as of today (including some by graduates) and are working our way up to 33 pages. If each page receives $300 in donations, we will meet our big financial goal.

The great news is that Carol Waid, Truth Be Told co-founder and Behind and Beyond Bars program director, can set your page up for you. She will add our new video, produced by Firelight Films (  She will need a photo and short description of why you are supporting Truth Be Told and then you will be able to participate in your own fundraising effort. To contact Carol, please email her at

Be inspired by Cara’s story and feel free to make your donation to her page:

Thanks for your support.  Your gift will help us help women in prison to heal past wounds and transform their lives.

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I didn’t know fundraising could be fun and easy

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Kathleen Littlepage shares her story.

This is the second year that “I Live Here, I Give Here” has sponsored Amplify Austin, a 24-hour online fundraising event designed for small nonprofits to reach donors through their social networks. The idea is that the people closest to an organization, those who are passionate about the mission, are the ones who can spread the word most effectively. This crowd-sourcing model relies on a whole lot of people making small donations. I was helping Truth Be Told (TBT) with some administrative work, including setting up the page for Amplify Austin. Once that was done, I tested one of the site functions and created my own fundraising page for TBTAmplify Austin_UFCU_Logo

It took about a half an hour to construct my page, write my own message, and upload some photos. Carol Waid gave me the link to our brand new video. Of course, no one knows you have a fundraiser going unless you tell them, so I shared the link on my Facebook page and went to make a cup of tea. When I came back to the computer, I was almost to my $300 goal. My brother in Florida who is retired gave $100, my sister in California made a donation, and then my ailing friend who lives a quiet life in the hill country did. My page had been up for less than an hour! I felt so good that they made donations right after seeing the post—no hesitation there. I knew it was because Truth be Told is such a great organization, but I also felt that it was because they love me, believe in me, and want to support me. I was raising money and feeling good! I had caught the bug. I needed a higher goal. I was hooked on seeing that number go up and started strategizing.

I know lots of people who aren’t on Facebook and even those who are can miss a posting, so I decided to send the fundraiser link in an email. I crafted a message about why working with incarcerated women should be important to everyone. It was different from what I usually say about how this work tugs at my heart. I wanted people to understand that it affects all of us when incarcerated women turn their lives around and contribute to their communities. I wasn’t sure how many people I could reach until I started scanning my Contacts for names to add to the blind copy line. Have you looked at your Contacts lately? I’m fortunate to have a group email for my high school friends, college friends, and my extended family that mostly live on the east coast.
Once again, I got quick generous donations. I was surprised that the people who responded weren’t necessarily the ones I communicate with the most. My personal bonus was the emails some sent encouraging me to keep up the good work. So here I am four days after I created my own fundraising page on Amplify Austin and I have donations of about $700. Not all of them show in my total yet because some are scheduled for March 20, when the 24-hour event begins.

If you are a friend of Truth Be Told, please consider setting up a personal fundraising page.

Our goal is $10,000. If we had 33 pages that raised $300 each, we would be there! Amplify has a $5,000 prize for the organization with the most personal fundraising pages. We could be in the running for that.

Get started here:

Consider featuring our new video to tell the story by adding this link:

If we all title our pages “Friend of Truth Be Told,” we will be listed together. Carol Waid is our site administrator and can help you. Call her at 512-292-6200 or email:

We have been asking people involved with Truth Be Told why they support the organization. Here are some of the responses:

“You ask why I give? I give to see lives transformed. I heard Nathalie Sorrell’s story of why she felt compelled to work with women in prison. I thought, “Good for Nathalie!” A few months later Nathalie invited me to attend a graduation ceremony for Truth Be Told students in the Lockhart prison. I received a firsthand experience of the powerful work she and Carol Waid created. Although I did not feel compelled to actually work in the prison, I did feel moved to get involved. What moved me during that visit were the stories the women told. Each woman told a story about how her life had been transformed by her work with the Truth Be Told curriculum. I wanted to be a part of something that transformed lives. My involvement is the giving of my financial resources. I want to see that as many women as possible will have access to Truth Be Told.” Bobby Miser, Rogers Benefit Group and former TBT Board Member

“I support TBT because I have witnessed the healing of women who were broken. I have seen for myself the transformational power of creating a community of respectful listeners as each one tells her story. I believe that a woman transformed can transform her family. I have seen TBT nurture and support this transformation.” Jim Walsh, Walsh, Anderson Law Firm, “Law Dawg”

“Being part of Truth Be Told is like magic, electricity, freedom, and trickle-down, trickle-up love, with some sobriety and maturity thrown in. I’ve been a board member and now serve as one of the blog’s volunteer editors. I continue to volunteer with TBT because it makes a real difference in real people’s lives: in the lives of the women it serves, their families and communities, and donors and volunteers.” MaryAnn Reynolds, MS, LMT, NCTMB, The Well

“After learning all I could about Truth Be Told, how it was started and grew into a highly successful program by changing the lives of women in prison, it became more important to me to be involved with the program than any other nonprofit project I had ever worked with. It was easy for me to redirect some of my funds to this program. Not only easy, but I was eager to do so as well as donate time to serving on their Board of Directors. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally support this program, and feel grateful that I have finally found one that I absolutely must and will continue to care about in the future.” Louise Morse, former TBT Board Member

Truth Be Told has a new video, in time for Amplify Austin on March 20-21!

lightscamerahelpTruth Be Told was fortunate to participate in the 2014 Reel Change Film Frenzy put on by Lights. Camera. Help., a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to encouraging other nonprofit and cause-driven organizations to use film and video to tell their stories. You know Truth Be Told has stories to tell!

This is the second year for the event, and ten nonprofits were matched with ten filmmakers who had a week to produce a video supporting the organization’s mission. We were fortunate that when Matt Copper of Firelight Films saw our entry, he knew our story was the one he wanted to produce.

firelightAfter getting permission and release forms signed, he and his production crew followed Katie Ford and Carol Waid out to the GEO Lockhart prison to capture a Talk to Me Circle class. He combined that footage with testimonials from the warden, chaplain, four Beyond Bars graduates, and co-founders Nathalie Sorrell and Carol Waid.

Thanks to this project, we have a high-quality, five-minute video that beautifully communicates our program and values. As in most classes, there are tears and laughter, respectful listening ,and authentic sharing. The interviews focus on how women heal through telling their story in the safety of the circle and use the tools they learn to rebuild their lives and their communities.

The screening of all ten films was on February 23 at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter. The theater sold out the day the tickets went on sale. The graduates in the film and some of our facilitators snapped up a few of the sought-after seats and got to celebrate with the Firelight Films crew.


One of our graduates, LW, described the spirit of the evening so well.

“What an emotional evening… There was a point we were all holding hands and a picture came on the screen of one of our Truth Be Told circles in Lockhart, and it felt to me like we were all holding hands with them too. It is so easy to get caught up in the world’s business. But we all started in a circle. We still have sisters in the circle, and we have future sisters in the circles to come. When life overwhelms me, I think I just need to hold on to that picture of one moment when Behind Bars and Beyond Bars held hands, take a breath, and know there is work to be done because I never know when a sister may need any one of us. Just think — they have no idea who we are and just like sitting in a circle for the first time they will sit in our Beyond Bars circle one day. I truly love each one of you!”

Amplify Austin logoThe video has been posted on our Amplify Austin site. (To view it, please click go to Amplify Austin. To find our page, enter “truth be told” in the search field by the magnifying glass icon. Click to enter our page. View the slide show and when the video appears, click to view.)

Amplify Austin is an I Live Here, I Give Here Program, a 24-hour marathon online fundraising effort to show that Austinites support the difference nonprofits make in our community.

Amplify Austin starts at 6 p.m. on March 20th and runs until 6 p.m. on March 21st. This energetic event gives small nonprofits the opportunity to raise awareness and funds by networking with their supporters, so there is a lot to do before the day of the event.

Please consider supporting our effort in one of the following ways:

  • Become a matching donor by contacting Truth Be Told so we can list your name as a supporter and inspire others.
  • Set up your own fundraiser. This is quick and easy to do. It is similar to runners getting pledges for a race. It lets you tell your friends and family why you care about TBT and set your own goal. We can give you a link to our video to add to your fundraiser. Check out our first individual fundraiser: Click here for detailed instructions on creating your own:
  • Share the Amplify Austin link on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
  • Send an email to your contacts with your own appeal and an Amplify Austin link.
  • Send us a few sentences on why you support Truth Be Told that we can use for this and/or future fundraisers.

The event is still three weeks away, but donations can be entered at any time, and you’ll be hearing more from us about this event on our blog. We are having fun collecting quotes from our many distinguished supporters, facilitators, and graduates. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing sentiments like this one from Paula D’Arcy, author, speaker, and president and founder of Red Bird Foundation, whose work seeks to further inner and worldwide peace.

 “Unless you’ve worked or volunteered in a prison, there aren’t words to capture the power and importance of the work done by Truth Be Told. Imagine women, most of whom have never had much of a chance in life, little education, separated from their children, low self-esteem, addictions, very low on hope…and then imagine a sincere transformation in their lives because of a program that delivers not only truth, but the means and encouragement to make different choices.

“Imagine healing, education about what a woman can be (and how she can comport herself and care for her own body and for her children), the redemptive power of learning to tell your story — not as a victim, but as a radiant woman — beginning to believe that you have a meaningful place in this world because you’ve finally experienced someone believing in you — these are huge gifts  anywhere, but inside a prison they are rare. The work is raw, it is emotional, it is exhausting, and month after month the teachers show up and give everything they’ve got. It is the ultimate reaching a hand back into the dark to help someone else. Support for this work reaches far beyond the women fortunate enough to take these classes. Heart by heart, this is how we’ll all awaken.”

Let’s Get Real! Truth Be Told program prepares women for release from prison

Did you know…

  • Truth Be Told has been offering programs in prison for 14 years!
  • We offer eight classes a week in two prisons and one jail.
  • We have 14 certified facilitators that are traveling to Lockhart, Gatesville, and Del Valle, Texas, in efforts to fulfill our mission:  transformational programs for women who are or have been incarcerated.
  • We have weekly Keep on Talking Empowerment Group conference calls for formerly incarcerated women.  The purpose of these calls: to inspire hope, empower the spirit, and connect with others who are committed to personal growth.   Local Toastmaster members offer their time to share an inspirational speech twice a month.

This week we will highlight our Let’s Get Real program.

Judy graduated with the fall 2013 Let’s Get Real class, and she wrote this piece in honor of her community for their graduation ceremony.  Judy grew to trust her community and grew faith in finding her voice and courage by trusting her community while being vulnerable.  Her vulnerability helped her to share painful parts of her story, and that helped her to release grief.  This process brought forth a freedom in her creativity and a sense of belonging.

Here’s what she wrote for graduation:

Let’s Get Real

by Judy (graduate of fall 2013 Let’s Get Real program)


From day one,

I didn’t know how to feel,

Wasn’t sure what to think

About this “Let’s Get Real.”


To feel the pain and fear in my heart

I knew that soon I would take part,

In the questions, standing tall,

Get back to life beyond these walls.


For them to know how I feel

Truth be told, let’s get real,

They refused to see the tears that were cried

The sorrow so deep, I have slowly died.


The pain that my loved ones feel,

Didn’t think we would ever heal -

But in this class, I’ve learned a few things,

That the ladies in Truth Be Told bring:


Think positive, set boundaries,

Build a support group in the community.

My life has now begun to heal,

Begun to love, to even feel.


The brokenness in my heart,

My life is sealed

My life has taken part.

Truth be told?

Yeah, Let’s Get Real!


Photo credit: Free Grunge Textures

Photo credit: Free Grunge Textures

This 14-week program was created in 2002 because of a request from an assistant warden at the Lockhart unit. She witnessed the phenomenon that is called “short timing”: It is common that when inmates are on their way out of prison that they began to show reactionary behaviors that are often self-destructive, due to the reality of being released, even when they’ve been model prisoners for years. There is fear of the unknown, and many prisoners know they will return to the same environment they left with little opportunity, support, or financial possibilities for a new lifestyle. There is the reality that many will be returning to older children who’ve been living without their parenting for a number of years. These realities can heighten emotions of panic, confusion, and depression.

The objectives of our program are:

  • Provide a safe community to express the roller coaster of thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
  • Gather each week, practicing honesty and integrity, with the willingness to stretch their comfort zones.
  • Practice meditation, journaling, and stillness, so that the heightened emotions can settle down and they can gain clarity in decision-making.
  • Identify and practice completing short-term goals.
  • Express a detailed creative writing project to employ a strong manifestation of their long-term goals.
  • Identify red flags, which are triggers, and make a plan for this occurrence.
  • Role-play scenarios that engage the confused and angry self versus the wise and balanced self, with the intention that this will set a memory in place for the times when over-reaction can be detrimental.
  • Introduce and identify how shame destroys, gaining insight to begin building shame resiliency

The bottom line is for these women to find love and respect for themselves and each other, with the ultimate goal to be a woman that makes a difference in the world for good and does not walk out of prison as a number and a statistic, but rather as a woman that is proud of herself.


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