From Bakery to Behind Bars

What do you do when you retire on top of a successful bakery career? You go back to jail.

I started at the Coeur d’ Alene French Baking Company in 1994 for $5 per hour, minimum wage at the time. In 2005, I found myself at the helm of this multi-million-dollar corporation serving high-quality breads and cookies to restaurants and grocery stores in three states. Under my leadership, we continued to grow, building solid business relationships. We created bread and cookies for well-known warehouse stores and private label products for high-end grocery stores; we had food service distributors backing up to the loading dock.

Well known in our corner of the world, many people knew the information above. It wasn’t uncommon for kind people to say how happy they were that I had achieved my goals and, indeed, I had. They just weren’t the goals they thought.

My goal was to find a way to stay out of jail. In 1991-1992 my misdemeanors became felonies and I treated the Pierce County Jail as if it had a revolving door. The time in between trips to the county lockup, I was a legally blind drug addict living in my car who had jumped bail. As you can guess, I achieved my goal of staying out of jail, but how did I do it? How did I not only make it out of this devastating cycle but move on to a fulfilling life and career?

I wrote ‘The Girl in My Wallet’ to offer hope to incarcerated women who are stuck in a cycle of defeat and offer encouragement to family members and volunteers struggling to understand. It offers suggestions that others did for me that helped. Admittedly, it is the toned-down version of the toned-down version, but it is enough to see what is possible to overcome.

Currently, there are 14 women at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (Purdy) who are reading ‘The Girl in My Wallet’. Guided by an amazing mentor, they are discussing my personal journey and considering what portions might be pulled out and adapted to their own. These are the women I serve and I happily return behind bars to do it. I refuse to believe there is no hope. I know better.

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