In February 2000, Nathalie Sorrell responded to a request from the warden at the GEO Lockhart Unit to teach 15 incarcerated women to tell their stories to juveniles, to inspire the young girls not to follow the women’s paths to prison. The next semester, the juvenile program was discontinued and at the warden’s suggestion, Nathalie brought in an audience of respectful listeners to witness the women’s truth telling. She invited Carol Waid and Suzanne Armistead to facilitate and invite listeners, and they added classes that incorporated writing and movement. The first participants named the classes Talk To Me. In 2003, the three founders established Truth Be Told as a 501(c)(3).
In the15 years since Nathalie agreed to that initial small volunteer commitment, thousands of women have attended programs that are offered in five correctional facilities and support program graduates once they are released.
All of the programs are still facilitated by volunteers. The organization relies on donations from generous individuals and a few small organizations and foundation grants. On our website, we recognize donors in several categories. The Voice of Melinda lists donors who gave $5,000-$9,999. Melinda was our first program graduate to donate to Truth Be Told. Her mother passed away while she was incarcerated, and she didn’t get to attend the funeral. When she was released, a small inheritance enabled her to go to school, and she made a donation to Truth Be Told. She says that most people don’t understand how vitally important the programs are to society as a whole. She has gone from being a self-described “low-bottom drunk” who committed a “heinous crime” to living amends to her family and community and starting a meaningful career.
Recently, Carol interviewed Melinda on how Truth Be Told contributed the life she has built since she was released in April 2005. Melinda did eight years on a 20 year sentence, the last three at the GEO Lockhart Unit. She was drawn to the first class out of desperation and fear of living beyond bars. She needed hope and tools to lead a different life. Once she started classes, she knew she was getting what she needed and took Talk To Me – Circle, Talk To Me – Movement, and Let’s Get Real. She describes being physically “bound up” from incarceration and needing her spirit to move and the powerful effect of sharing honestly with the other women in class. Listen to Melinda’s voice and story: http://youtu.be/P6GqD5MnJ0g
Last year, six of our graduates created campaigns to give hope to women who are still behind bars.
Please help us empower more voices like Melinda’s. Join our Truth Be Told team for Amplify Austin. Spread the Word. Create a Personal Fundraising Campaign. Make a Donation.