Sandy’s Story – A Journey to Success


Sandy’s Story – A Journey to Success
By: Susan Cunningham, Directory of Workforce Development, TRICOR

For some folks it takes three instances of incarceration before change takes place. Sandy was one of those people and found it difficult to hold herself personally accountable and make long lasting changes to her life. According to Sandy, if she had an alcohol or drug abuse problem, then she might have been able to see her actions and what needed to be changed. However, her real problem was dependency on others to define her and this was not easy for her to identify. She spent nearly 17 years from her first incarceration in 1991until her release in 2008 to complete her transition into a new life.

As many women in prison have experienced, her childhood was abusive and miserable. To cope, Sandy was able to redirect her feelings and energy to doing well in school, became a high achiever and depended on others to help her feel good about herself. She graduated high school, had completed two years of college and had held very good jobs. However, she was constantly depressed and never sought treatment. Getting a job was not the problem; keeping the job was a major problem. Additionally, marriage was an escape that never quite worked the way she imagined.

Since 1991, whenever Sandy had money problems, she forged and stole money from friends, family and employers. Change began at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPFW) in 2003 when Sandy served time for a felony on a theft of property conviction. In fact, in readiness to go to prison for this third time, Sandy began mental health treatment and found a therapist who helped her to develop insight, develop plans for change and provided on-going support for her efforts. While at TPFW, Sandy became aware of TRICOR, knew she had job skills to offer and wanted the opportunity to practice these skills, be productive and stick to her plans for change. Sandy trained for three years as an inventory clerk in the distribution warehouse.

When asked what made a difference Sandy talks about the supervisors who coached, mentored her and treated her with respect. Through their guidance, she stayed with TRICOR longer than she had any previous program or job while in the community. She participated in TRICOR Life Skills and worked with the Field Service Manager in developing her release and employment plan. In 2008, Sandy initially received more intensive post-release case management support. Now, she and TRICOR post-release staff maintain periodic contact. She has worked long-term, temporary positions through one placement agency and recently transitioned to full-time employment in her accounts payable and procurement position.

She says TRICOR helped her to make a commitment, maintain that determination and continue to improve. In fact, she says now it’s really simple: go to work, do your job and be honest … all of which she does today.