Category Archives: Ban the Box Action

Sonia – TAJ Member


According to The Sentencing Project, one out of every three adults in the

United States has been arrested. 1 Millions of men and women are negatively impacted

because of past arrests, convictions, and incarceration. Unjustly after involvement with

the legal system, many pay for their offenses for years, decades, and even lifetimes.

This perpetual sentence and the effects one faces is known as invisible punishment.

The stigma of a criminal record is immense, and many ex-offenders experience

legalized discrimination, subjugation, lack of opportunities, and loss of political power.

Consequently, many people are unable to obtain basic needs, such as employment and

housing, and have no option than to return to the very environment which led to

incarceration. In addition, inability to meet needs may lead to recidivism.

justice system, and I have encountered challenges because of my past. My

involvement was a direct result of drug use. For twenty-four years I was in active

addiction, and this year, I celebrate ten years in recovery. My life has dramatically

changed, but for too many years, I was a slave to my past.

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of

Colorblindness, writes, “The shame and stigma that follows you for the rest of your life –

that is the worst” and how “…a felony conviction has been like a mental punishment”. 3

The stigma is far-reaching and can have devastating consequences. I lived in self-

condemnation. The shame was paralyzing and kept me living in fear. I felt my life was

over, for I thought I would be forever marred by the stigma of being a criminal.

But along my journey I discovered self-acceptance and self-forgiveness, and I

learned to separate the person I truly am from the person I become under the influence.

Being clean has transformed my life and given me a peace I never knew existed, so

now the mess of my life has been turned into a message of hope.

I am coming out of the shadows. I no longer have to hide in shame because it

has become self-respect and self-worth. Shame has evolved into advocacy. I am

excited to be a part of Texas Advocates for Justice because I am surrounded by like-

minded people: the formerly incarcerated: their families, faith-based, and civic

organizations. We acknowledge the human suffering that has occurred, and we unite to

challenge the injustices of the criminal justice system. Great strides will be made as we

mobilize to uncover the truth and demand change, and the same men and women who

were once voiceless are now on the forefront of this movement.

I am one of the many who has had personal experience with the criminal

Addiction, crime, incarceration, and the lifestyle are traumatic events.

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