ReConnect: Making Our Voices Heard

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Stacey Thompson, Community Outreach Educator for the Women in Prison Project and ReConnect graduate, provided a moving introduction to Vanessa Williams at the 1844 Medal Award dinner. Here is an excerpt from her speech:

ReConnect has provided me with the tools I need to solve problems on a personal and community-based level. The leadership skills that I have acquired help me to make better decisions. I used to think that I had to accept ‘no’ for an answer, but I have learned that I don’t have to settle for that answer any more. I’ve learned to advocate for myself and come up with ways to address the issues that I am facing.

To me, advocating means I can speak for myself. ReConnect and the Women in Prison Project helped to fill a void in my life and gave me a different direction to focus on. If offered a chance, as I was, formerly incarcerated women could have the same opportunity through Re-Connect to learn how to advocate and to get involved in addressing the issues that our society faces.

After I graduated from ReConnect, I landed a job as the Community Outreach Educator for the Women in Prison Project. With my position at [the CA], I am able to reach out to other women, share the advocacy skills that I have learned, and advocate for women that can’t advocate for themselves because they are incarcerated. These are some of the reasons I love what I do.

Although I spent seven days on Rikers Island, it seemed like a lifetime to me and I wouldn’t want to see other women unnecessarily spending time there.

Imagine if there was no ReConnect. I would have never known that I could go to Albany and address legislators and speak up about the Rockefeller Drug Laws or about the need for funding for more alternative-to-incarceration programs and have people hear the voice that stayed quiet for so long. I never knew that there were people in society that actually care about our issues. I would like to thank those that support our Project and ask that you keep up the good work.”