A moment of desperation changed the course of Tracey’s life. The 34-year-old mother of four pleaded guilty to stealing from her employer. She left her children in her mother’s care, staring down a 40-year prison sentence—a grim price to pay for a little financial relief.
How had she come to this? She felt hollow just thinking about all the birthdays and holidays she would miss. The possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison loomed over her.
Still, the echo of slamming prison gates at the Carole Young Unit couldn’t deter her from what she needed to do.
"You have to be the one to rehabilitate yourself. You can’t depend on the prison system to do that."
FINDING A SISTERHOOD
It began with a choir and some classes. Early on, Tracey’s determination did not waver.
“You have to be the one to rehabilitate yourself,” says Tracey. “You can’t depend on the prison system to do that.”
While the choice to change was up to her, she couldn’t do it alone. She heard the Prison Fellowship Academy™ was coming to her facility and knew this was her chance. The Academy, an intensive, holistic life-transformation program, challenged Tracey to dig deeper into the roots of her criminal behavior.
Tracey and her classmates held each other responsible for their actions and supported each other’s spiritual growth. Sheila Klein, a Prison Fellowship volunteer and Tracey’s mentor, said, “Tracey should be the ‘poster child’ for [the Academy]. The only time she ever missed class in over two and a half years was when she had knee surgery. And by the next week, she was hobbling back to class on her crutches!”
With the faithful guidance of program staff and volunteers, and the support of her new Christian sisterhood, Tracey transformed. She joined the first graduating class of the Academy at the Carol Young Unit and never looked back. That summer, she trained to be one of the first peer facilitators of the Academy at Carole Young.
“If we needed someone to encourage another member, we called on Tracey,” says Bill Loyd, Prison Fellowship field director for southeast Texas.
THE GIFT OF FREEDOM
Just before Christmas 2011, the parole board voted to release Tracey within 30 days. She felt like God had chosen his own birthday to give her the sweetest gift—the gift of freedom. After serving just six years of her 40-year sentence, Tracey walked free.
Tracey maintained her monthly parole requirements, landed a job with a title company, and earned a promotion while pursuing a degree in marketing. She also reconnected with her four children, who are now young adults.
Tracey still serves with Prison Fellowship to help others walk the difficult road to restoration. She makes the drive back to Carole Young to help run Angel Tree® Christmas parties as well as Celebrate Recovery, a biblically based recovery program. Tracey considers it a privilege to minister to the women much like herself—women she could have shared a prison dorm with not so long ago.
“Those ladies, they’re like a part of me. I love them so much, because I understand them,” Tracey shares, fighting back tears. “They come up and tell me that I give them inspiration and hope, but really I am forever grateful, honored, and humbled to be able to serve them. Because I know what those volunteers meant to me and my family.”