I’ve always been interested in what happens while being in prison or jail. I wanted to start an organization like this shortly after I went to visit a friend who was incarcerated in a Virginia prison. The officers treated me, a free citizen like I was incarcerated. I had to take my shoes off, remove all of my jewelry, open my mouth, flip my hair and go through a metal detector. They talk down to you, they look at you as if you did something wrong! Do you know what the inmates are called? “Inmate” or their “State Number”. On the prison shows you see on TV, you only get to see how wild and crazy inmates can be, but do you see how the staff treats them?
After several months of trying to figure how I can help former inmates; or how FAILSAFE-ERA refers to these men and women, Returning Citizens I was connected to President and Founder of FAILSAFE-ERA, Mrs. Juanita Shanks. We hit it off immediately! We spent over an hour talking on our very FIRST phone conversation. I think the only reason we got off of the phone is because my phone was dying. What stood out the most about Juanita was and still is her passion. Yes! Finally! Someone who’s passion matches my passion, someone who isn’t judgmental of someone who has been incarcerated. Juanita, later invited me to FAILSAFE-ERA’s Community Meeting, and at the end she asked me my thoughts. First thing I said was “I LOVE what you all are doing, and I look forward to attending more meetings!” More meetings turned into me joining FAILSAFE-ERA. I am currently the Vice President of Development also known as the Woman who connects the community and FAILSAFE-ERA together.
photo above: right, Juanita Shanks, left, Andrea Durham
How many of you have driven home under the influence of any kind? How many of you have borrowed a pen from work and never returned it? What about leaving the store with a case of water under your cart that you forgot to pay for? Something Former President, Barack Obama shared is “We believe that when people make mistakes, they deserve an opportunity to remake their lives.”
FAILSAFE-ERA gives hope, we understand, we are open, we are not ashamed of you and YOU, Returning Citizen, should not be ashamed of you. FAILSAFE-ERA believes in second chances, and I consider myself so blessed to be able to be a part of an organization that makes it their business to help our Returning Citizens receive that second chance.