We’re almost a full week into Women’s History Month and the celebration is just getting started. Throughout March, our #SeeMe campaign will highlight the faces of female incarceration, challenging society to see these women through a different lens so we can end the stigma associated with incarceration. We opened the campaign profiling Cristy. Our next face will look familiar to many. It’s Erica Munoz, who works as a Sales Development Rep in our Santa Cruz call center at Perryville prison. Erica was one of our shining stars at TEDxPerryvilleCorrectional, where she gave a moving talk, #NotMeAnymore, about her life of codependency, abuse, promiscuity and hardship.
Erica’s remarkable journey of transformation, as well as her upbeat personality leaves an everlasting impact on every person she meets. See for yourself. #SeeErica.
What is one accomplishment you’re most proud of?
My proudest moment ever will always be TEDxPerryvilleCorrectional where I had the opportunity to share my story. After that, one of the greatest challenges I face every day is acceptance. But through hard work, I’ve learned to no longer value my worth based on the opinions of others. The only person I need to be good enough for is myself. While this journey of healing and acceptance is ongoing, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Looking in the past is no longer an option. I use my experience and tools to motivate and inspire the women around me. Every day we support one another on the path of loving the women who we are today.
It’s said that the most successful women build a female tribe to help them learn & grow. Tell us about the culture on the inside and how you’re supported by the women around you.
The culture inside Perryville is unique in that I’m surrounded by strong, powerful women. We inspire and motivate one another to become the greatest version of ourselves. My group of friends is special because we each bring something different to the tribe. Heather brings out the bold and fearless side of me. Elissa brings out strength in me that I never knew I had. Brianna is the voice of reason and keeps me grounded. And Andrea reminds me of my faith in God. Their love and support make my journey to a bright future possible.
How will you set an example to the young women of tomorrow?
I will not let my past define me, nor should anyone. Yes, I’ve experienced difficult times and made poor decisions, but I will continue to persevere, break down barriers and redefine what it means to wear orange. Society needs to see that we are human beings. We are more than our worst labels–the scarlet letters placed on us that endure long after release. It is possible to have a bright future. I wear the color orange because of choices I’ve made in the past, but these decisions do not reflect or define who I am today.
This Women’s History Month, what do you want to shine a light on?
I’d like to shine light on second chances. The women inside Perryville deserve an opportunity to showcase their transformational journeys and obstacles they’ve overcome. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want to return home to our families, friends and communities. I’m not the same person who entered the walls of Perryville almost six years ago. Through healing and radical acceptance, I’ve grown in ways I never imagined. I do not want to be labeled as inmate No. 285027. Instead, I want people to #SeeMe for who I am today.