The program gave me coping skills to save me from myself and realize crucial aspects of my personality.Before coming into the program, I did not accept that I had a drug problem, and it taught me how to understand my addictive personality.
It was also through this program that I met Lisa Cunningham.
Lisa, a peer coordinator employed by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, was a survivor of prostitution and a recovering addict, so she understood exactly what I was going through and I was able to fully put my trust in her. She gave me flat irons for my hair when my hair was matted from living on the streets.
When I was arrested, I thought I would be treated like a criminal.
I was not expecting the love and compassion that I received inside the Cook County Jail.
The jail has seen an 81 percent drop in felony convictions three years following prisoner release for those who have gone through their drug court program.
I believe this comes down to how we approach prison time for the incarcerated.We need to treat prisoners as individuals who need counseling, resources, and preparation for the outside world — not bad people who deserve punishment.If more jails and prisons ran like Cook County’s, especially for victims of prostitution, I believe we could bring these numbers down.But in the nation’s drug courts — criminal sentencing that typically includes mandatory addiction treatment — research shows that recidivism drops significantly.Among the nation’s 2,700 drug courts, Cook County is considered in the 10 model programs for prisoners.If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I graduated from Loyola University in 1985 with a degree in finance and have always been an overachiever.I then worked for a large corporation, in charge of a staff of 25 people. However, like many victims of sexual exploitation, I had underlying mental health issues that I had never dealt with or spoken about.Those four months I spent in jail allowed me to be honest with myself and forgive myself first.I then forgave those who had harmed me and those that I had allowed to harm me.The lifestyle takes everything from you and completely transforms you into a different person.During those two years I tried to smoke enough crack to bust my heart, but God did not let me die. My life was saved when angels in handcuffs came for me in 2004.