by Carol Waid
Colette graduated from several of Truth Be Told’s Talk to Me classes (part of the Behind Bars program), as well as the Let’s Get Real program designed for women whose date for re-entry to the world is less than nine months. Colette let us know she was not coming back to prison. She was a sponge and attended every class, graduating with perfect attendance. In our programs she shared her awareness of why she repeatedly fell back into the revolving door of addiction and prison; therefore, she took our classes seriously.
I spoke to Colette when she had been released eighteen days. She said, “I got out focused and with a plan.” She was already enrolled in college and reconnecting with her family. The only thing missing was being with her pregnant daughter. She said, “I don’t know how, but I am going to get to North Carolina to be there when my grandson is born. I missed my other grandchildren’s births because of being in prison, but I am not going to miss this one.”
When women are released from prison, we ask them to participate in our Beyond Bars program. We want them to Keep on Talking with us and with their families, to continue speaking their truth. We have a three-year plan for the women to continue their connection with us. We ask them to remain committed to the dates of contact.
At the three-year mark, we send them a handmade quilt as a special thank you from Truth Be Told. This honors their special day of remaining free. Each quilt is created by my parents—my mom believes every quilt should be unique just as the women they are gifted to.
And the good news is that Colette has followed this commitment to the very day—just like she did in her program participation.
On March 13, 2013, her fifth month after prison release, Colette called to say she had relocated to North Carolina and that she was, in fact, there when her grandbaby Carson was born. “TBT has helped rebuild my relationship because I listen more. I give suggestions, rather than advice. It helped me to realize that I am a mother of an adult child. I sit each morning and reflect on keeping focused on living a better life: staying clean and productive.”
Below is a letter that Colette recently sent:
My name is Colette Pratt and I am a graduate of the Truth be Told program at the Lockhart facility in Lockhart, Texas. I am also a repeat offender, who in the past had not been able to stay clean, or free, for more than a few months at a time. My trip to Lockhart had been my second time on the unit. I have been to prison five times, have eleven felony convictions and several misdemeanors. I am not proud of my past criminal activities; however, I am extremely happy about where those incidents took me.
I first learned of the Truth Be Told program in July of 2012, shortly after arriving at the Lockhart facility. During my first experience on the unit, there were so many programs, classes, and activities to participate in, I was sure I would have any number of things to choose from to occupy my time. I had no idea things had changed so much due to budget cuts, that there was little or nothing to do, not even work, as is mandatory in the prison system, and on other units. When I saw the poster announcing the Truth Be Told program, I signed up because I wanted to do something constructive, and like all offenders, I wanted to show the parole board that I was using my time wisely and striving to find tools for change. I found that, and so much more.
In the first program, I had the option of participating in the movement class or the writing class. I chose writing, because I am an aspiring novelist who started writing during my sentence. It wasn’t what I expected, but that was a good thing. I was encouraged to look within and purge myself of all the past mistakes and issues that may have been keeping me bound to the life I was living. I am a recovering addict who had tried for years to overcome my habit but always found myself going back to the very thing I was desperate to get away from. There were many things in my past that very few people knew about, and I was initially uncomfortable with the idea of revealing some of those things. Then I started to write, and as I wrote, I remembered the things my facilitator, Natalie Weinstein, had shared with the class. I was mindful of the exercises we did during our too short time together, and when I finished the paper, I was not only pleased with what I wrote, I was free from the burden of not being able to talk about it.
I have participated in every program offered by Truth be Told, including the Let’s Get Real program, which helped me take a look at myself and my flaws, character defects, and shortcomings. What I have learned is to take all the information and suggestions and apply them to my daily life. I am still a work in progress; however, I know that I would not be where I am had it not been for the Truth Be Told program.
Where am I, you ask? I am presently in Greensboro, NC, caring for my grandsons, while my daughter is in Dallas looking for a job. It probably isn’t such a big deal to others, but it is a very big deal to me. Had I not participated in the Truth Be Told program, I would not have had the courage or the determination to come here to help and support my child. I would not have known what “respectful listening” is, or how to implement it. I may not have had the self-assurance to acknowledge the fact that my past is not my future. I surely would not have been strong enough to reinvent myself.
I am currently enrolled in the English degree program at Ashford University online, with a 3.53 GPA, writing a novel, caring for my grandchildren in my daughter’s absence, and living a life free of drugs and criminal activity. All these things are a direct reflection of what I learned while participating in the Truth Be Told program. For an individual who has never had an addiction or been to prison, these things may seem like things everyone does, but for me, they are dreams I used to have that have become realities. I know without a doubt that the Truth Be Told program and its facilitators are in large part responsible for the transformation that has taken place in my life, and my ability to renovate myself.
Colette Marshall Pratt
2012 Graduate of Truth Be Told Programs