Today, I’m featuring a guest post from a reader of the blog. The author’s name has been left out to avoid creating an online record of her case (in light of the fact she will be seeking an expungement soon), but she has graciously agreed to share her story with you all. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did:
When I was younger I had no idea how my life would turn out. Most people don’t. Usually, little girls dream of getting married or being princesses. I can remember wanting to be a doctor or the president when I was a child. When I was 15 I ran away from home. I was in and out of juvenile detention and children’s homes until I was 16. At 16 I got married so that I would be emancipated. At that time I thought I had life all figured out. I dropped out of high school and started working full time. I was hanging out with people much older than me because let’s face it, at 16 the only people out during the day are older. At 17 I was divorced. Obviously getting married wasn’t the smartest decision; I had no idea what I was doing. I received my GED at that age, though. Somewhere inside of me, I knew I needed to do better, but I still wasn’t on the path towards a good future.
I skipped around a lot, living in a lot of different places, with a lot of different people, most of the time with people I didn’t even really know. I was into drugs and partying and really had no care about what my future held. At 18 I met someone who I thought I was in love with. He had a similar story but was much worse off than I was. I followed him. We got into a lot of trouble together. At 19 years old I woke up one day inside of the Nelson County jail. I had been to jail before but only overnight stays. This time I was in regular population and not the drunk tank. I knew something was wrong but I had taken so many pills that I didn’t really remember what had actually happened. I asked the jailer for my paperwork so I could figure out what was going on. What I read on those papers changed my life. I was in jail on a $100,000 cash bond for Felony Theft. I knew I screwed up.
I spent a long time in Nelson County jail. I had no money so I was given a public defender. I received different offers on sentencing and tried to get a felony diversion but because of all the trouble I had been in my lawyer told me it was impossible. I plead with the judge to have mercy on me because I was out of mind during that time. The judge decided that after I left jail he would send me to an impatient rehab program. In August of 2005 I was sentenced. I will never forget that day for the rest of my life. The judge convicted me of felony theft and said I would stay in jail until a bed came open at the rehabilitation center. A couple of months later a bed was open and I was taken in an orange jumpsuit to the rehab where I would spend the next month telling my life story of drug abuse and trouble. I had nothing but a suitcase full of clothes and a car that barely got me anywhere.
After spending a month in rehab I started gaining some of my confidence back. Other people there had lived like me and the counselors gave me hope of starting over. When my time was up there I had nowhere to go. I ended up in a woman’s shelter in Elizabethtown. I started working two jobs so that I could save for a place to live and pay my restitution. I was on felony probation for 5 years. I can remember the first time walking in to see my probation officer and having to do a drug test. I cried. Even though I knew I was sober, I was scared to death of going back to jail. Of course, I passed with flying colors, and my probation started.
During this time I met a woman, who I now consider a second mother. She took me in, even though she knew my parole officer would be doing home visits, and even though I had been convicted of felony theft. She gave me a second chance. She gave me a chance to get on my feet. I basically had nothing. I saved money and was soon able to get my own apartment and a new car. I worked hard. I paid all my fines early and lived everyday by the books. I still had no idea what I was doing with my life. When my 5 years of probation was up I filed paperwork to get my voting rights back. Governor Beshear granted what most people call a partial pardon for me. I can remember my probation officer telling me I was one of the best probationees that she had ever had.
In 2009 I found out I was pregnant. Becoming pregnant changed my life the most. I had worked at restaurants and gas stations, even fast food places but I knew that with a child coming, that I would never be able to support us. I started going to college in Elizabethtown. I was concerned that even with a degree I wouldn’t be able to find a job afterwards but I was determined. I refused to bring a child into this world and not be able to take care of him. In the fall of 2010 I made the President’s Honor list at the college in Elizabethtown. I graduated in 2011 with an Associate’s degree in Information Technology. Before graduating, I made the Information Technology Student of the year and gained a couple of certifications through the school. I had a drive in me that wouldn’t stop. I can’t tell you that I didn’t spend some nights crying and worrying about how I would change my future. What I can tell you is this, I never gave up. Since then, I have received an Associate’s degree in Arts and am only 8 classes away from getting my Bachelor’s in Computer Science at WKU.
I am a single mother. I work full time and have a child that I have involved in sports since the age of 2. I was lucky enough to coach his soccer team at the YMCA a couple years back. Even with the felony on my record they gave me a chance. I just had to explain myself. I have met so many people in the last 11 years of my life. I have been turned down for jobs, I have been given chances, and I have been given recommendations. I still wanted more. I filed for a pardon and had recommendations from teachers and people that knew how much I had changed. When Governor Bashear released the names of the people that had received pardons in 2015, my name was not on the list. Honestly I thought that was my last shot. I started hearing more and more about House Bill 40. I started following the bill and talking to people who knew more about it than I did. Yesterday, April 12, 2016, Governor Bevin signed House Bill 40, allowing people with low level felonies a chance to have their record expunged. I have never been more excited and in aww in my entire life. Bevin signing that bill gives me a chance to take my life back. I will have more opportunities to enhance my career and give my son and I a better way of life.
I have been very lucky over the last 11 years with the people I have met and the chances I have been given. It hasn’t been easy and I have had to fight to stay ahead. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve struggled, but I have managed to maintain my confidence in knowing that I am doing the best for my son and for myself. I don’t want people to think, “Oh she just got lucky.” It wasn’t just luck that has gotten me this far. I have stayed determined and I refuse to settle. I have set goals and once I reach them, I set more. I keep pushing. I surround myself with people that help build me up instead of tearing me down. I can’t thank the people that have given me second chances enough. I will never forget and I will always stay true to my goals and what I want in life. To anyone who may read this, know that this isn’t the end. There are second chances. There are people who will believe in you and while things may seem tough at times, you can overcome it, you will overcome it. Never stop believing in yourself.
Thank you so much blog reader. You know who you are. Your hard work is truly amazing and your words are an inspiration to everyone involved in this fight to get people their rights back. Thank you for sharing your story with us and allowing me to post it. I have little doubt that you will get your second chance in July.