For the past 20 years, I’ve had the privilege to work for Televerde–a demand generation company that, for the past two decades, has provided nurtured, qualified, sales-ready leads to businesses like SAP, Marketo, and Hitachi. But it’s the “how we do this” that’s unique. You see, four of our nine contact centers are staffed by women in the Arizona State Prison. We have a fifth contact center at the women’s prison in Rockville, Indiana. There’s certainly an altruistic element to our business model, but that isn’t why it works. Our model succeeds because the women we hire are making a choice to have a better life. They want to grow; they want to learn; they want to feel valued
Criminal Justice Reform Must Empower the Individual
My colleague Danielle Walker is serving her third prison sentence in Perryville. She’s currently the team lead for our Campaign Systems Team, and when she’s released one week from today, she’ll join us at our Phoenix headquarters as a supervisor on our Client Services Delivery team. How did this happen?
“My first time incarcerated I was 20-years-old. I’m 33 now. I was so broken because of my drug addiction. But by my third prison sentence, I wanted
Danielle found support not just through job training and career opportunity, but through The Way Out, a peer
My colleague, Lisa White, who works in our headquarters as a Sales Development Rep for one of our clients, shares this sentiment.
“I’ve been to Perryville twice. The first time, I came in as a hustler and I left unchanged. After hitting rock bottom (again) and falling back into my old meth habit, I was arrested. I hugged the police officer because I knew he kept me from dying—that’s the shape I was in. My second sentence was 4.5 years and it’s this time around I learned about Televerde, thanks to the girls in the yard who are always trying to encourage people to join. Like Danielle, I didn’t think I could do it. It’s tough and the training challenges you in ways that most of us have never experienced. I played it safe and began as a porter…running back and forth to get Televerde ladies coffee.
Lisa said volunteer and mentoring opportunities, which are also part of the First Step Act, are critical to a person’s success. “Education and opportunity help you fulfill your potential, but sustaining it requires continued support from people who understand your challenges and who will lead you to healthy solutions and outcomes that meet your individual needs. There is no one-size-fits-all way of healing.”
Finally, I’d like to introduce you to Heidi Brown, also a Sales Development Rep at our corporate office.
“I, too, have been to Perryville twice. First time around, I played the game. I did what I had to and transitioned out of prison without any real resources. My only commitment was meeting my parole officer once a month and paying the required fee. I was trained simply for unskilled labor positions, and worse, I lost custody of all four of my children. I wasn’t dealing in healthy ways with any of this. With lack of focus and opportunity, and a lot of open emotional wounds, I reverted to old behaviors and ended up back in Perryville. When I stepped through those prison gates a second time, something in me longed for change. I didn’t know how or where I would find it, but I knew I wanted it. I heard about Televerde. The women seemed so much more than I could ever hope to be, but they pushed me to apply. One day I did. It’s incredibly validating when you’re hired, but nothing like when you graduate their boot camp. I am a sponge for knowledge now, with a vocabulary that still surprises me. I’ve transformed into a tech geek and I’m proud to wear my new label. I see myself differently, as someone who deserves the life I lead. And why not? I’ve earned it. But my success is a daily struggle made easier by the support I have through Arouet. They’ve taught me how to lead a life I can be proud of through their programs like mentoring, wellness and behavioral health, and life skills development and advocacy. For me, the greatest lessons have been learning how to positively reconnect with my three daughters and to move forward without my son who I lost to adoption. My girls, now teenagers, keep me focused and motivated. In my situation, it’s easy to become consumed by guilt: how I’ve let them down, not being able to give my son what I’m giving to my daughters. I’ve learned to forgive myself. I focus on what I can do today and I make every moment count in the most constructive ways I can. For my son, what I will build with him tomorrow drives me. I know when he and I reconnect, he’ll find me in good standing—a mom he can look up to. I look forward to that day.”
Heidi credits her involvement in programs like Girls in Tech and Wonder Women with helping her succeed. “Being accountable to my community is yet another reason to stay accountable to myself.” She urges prisons to make drug treatment and support groups in prison mandatory, even for people who don’t necessarily have substance abuse issues. “For the overwhelming majority of us, we’re codependent on the wrong people and that is also addictive.” More than that, she hopes all those who are incarcerated will one day exit the prison as she did: with a support group that has your back for the long-term, if not forever. “People fall down. They get back up when there’s a community around them that can relate, and whose purpose it is to make sure you never return to prison.”
I’ve written about our model extensively, most recently when I shared my vision and aspirations for our Televerde CSR platform and when we delivered a one-of-a-kind TEDx experience with our women in Perryville. I invite you to revisit both to see all that can be gained through criminal justice reform and why it needs to be a priority for everyone. You can also learn more about our partnership with the non-profit organization, Arouet Foundation, by visiting its website.