“Make sure you don’t repeat your mistake or let anyone else make the same mistake. Never give up!”
Before prison, Diana had what most would call a successful life, but when her stepdad passed away right after she finished high school, she started using alcohol as a coping mechanism. The behavior continued during college and her career, eventually spiraling into excessive drinking and other reckless behaviors. Her choices resulted in a prison sentence from a vehicular accident which injured a person. She had effectively eliminated everything she had going for her at the time, and, for the first two years of her incarceration, she couldn’t accept that incarceration was actually the best thing that could have happened to her at the time.
Eventually, Diana interviewed for the OCE Document Scanning program. For the first few months, she was quiet and bitter. Then she met another participant who became a great friend and mentor. With the help of her new friend and the OCE staff, Diana quit hating life and began to see OCE as a mental escape from prison life. She noticed correctional officers treating her differently. Her friend said, “If you can make it in OCE, you earn more respect.” Diana’s sense of self-worth began to improve. In her off time, she participated in the DOC program Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG). It was an intense six-month program during which she finally recognized the thinking patterns which led her to prison, and she vowed to change.
Diana transferred to the DOC Hair Design program, surprised to discover she enjoyed the work. Her artistic side came forth, and the soft skills she learned with OCE became customer service skills. After completing the two-year Hair Design program and returning to the OCE Scanning program for one year, she transferred to the minimum facility for six months of transition programming. During that time, staff from a local Perfect Look Hair Salon came to the facility and interviewed Diana. All her hard work over the previous six years paid off: she had a job the day she released. Now the third top revenue producer at the salon, she recently accepted an offer of an additional part-time job from the manager of the clothing store next door who appreciated Diana’s customer service skills and general presence.
Diana credits her success after release to four things: her family support during and after her incarceration; the skills and self-worth she developed in DOC and OCE programs; the support of the DOC and OCE staff; and the support of her current coworkers who know her story and encourage her to continue to succeed. What is Diana’s definition of success? “Success is stopping at any moment of the day and possessing a great amount of pride, knowing I am accomplishing things, being happy, and living each day better than the one before.” What advice does she have to those still in custody? “Know that ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it. Ask yourself what you can do to make a difference. Make sure you don’t repeat your mistake or let anyone else make the same mistake. Never give up!”
Read more AIC success stories and learn about OCE training programs and projects by visiting our STORIES PAGE.