Take a moment to #turnthepage and read the tear-jerking stories of our clients, donors and volunteers about the reasons they became apart of the T.O.R.I. program and the life-changing impact the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative has had on their lives.
“I had an unlimited supply of money, it seemed. It was on tap. I had everything I ever wanted. It wasn’t until after I went to prison that I realized that, until I filled the hole inside me, it wasn’t ever going to be enough.” Janie explains.
Janie was arrested at her workplace – a retail store inside a mall in Athens, Texas. It was a Saturday morning, and her shift had just begun. Her manager, staring in disbelief, kept saying, “What’s happening? What’s happening!?” as they took Janie away.
About a year prior, Janie and her husband met a man who taught them how to counterfeit money. It began with small and old bills, mostly $20’s. Janie and her husband created the bills using machines they had bought online. After some low-stakes trial and error, they began making $100 bills. With those, they would purchase pre-paid cards at smaller retailers. Janie estimates they were likely creating $500 a week when they started. By the time Jamie got arrested, they were fabricating and laundering at least $5,000 a week.
“One thing always led to another. The stakes kept getting higher. Then, [my husband] and I began selling the fake bills to drug dealers, who would pay in a mixture of actual legal tender and drugs. That’s when the drug habit began. Pills, mostly. With the addiction came poorer decision-making and even more risk.
That’s when we made the worst decision I’ve ever made.”
Janie decided that she could take the counterfeit bills and exchange them for the actual money in the register where she worked. Initially, she would exchange about $200 a day out of the $1,000 drawer. After a few months, she began swapping every bill every morning when she opened the store. These fake bills, given to customers as they received change, quickly made their way to circulation in Athens, Texas, where they caught the attention of police, who contacted the Secret Service and FBI.
“They traced the bills back to me through one of the drug dealers we had worked with and the sheer volume of counterfeit bills now in the community.
What started as a small operation became a federal offense that landed me in federal prison for 24 months.” Janie says, looking down.
“Since they don’t have federal parole, I did the whole 24 months. When I got out, everyone knew. Can you imagine how hard it is to get a job when your crime happened at your job” Even worse, Athens is such a small town, everyone knew. It’s all the town talked about.”
Hoping to make a fresh start, Janie moved to Dallas, enrolled in Richland College, and started taking continuing education courses. During an Intro to Criminal Justice class, Janie learned about reentry programs. When her professor mentioned TORI, she decided to explore it as an option.
“When I walked in the door of TORI, it felt like home. I took a class called Woman to Woman. I met so many people with stories like mine. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone. After a few months, I met First Lady Serita Jakes at the TORI High Tea on Mother’s Day. For the first time, I realized I am a gifted, intelligent, and beautiful woman. I AM More than the person I was when I was making bad choices and leading a criminal lifestyle. It made me think about what I needed to focus on.”
Janie excelled in the TORI program quickly. She described her appetite for the classes as “insatiable.” She worked with TORI’s Job Development Specialist to locate gainful employment despite the nature of her offense, and she got approved for housing through TORI’s partnership with the Dallas Housing Authority.
To Janie, though, that’s not the most important thing that she gained:
“The hole I was trying to fill was a need for God in my life. I am a testament that you can think you have everything you ever wanted and still feel empty and alone. The TORI class facilitators, my case manager, and the staff at TORI that I now call friends provided a spiritual awakening that I never thought possible.” Janie said with a smile.