I moved to Las Vegas with the hope of a prosperous life…I immediately found myself enamored with the promise of easy money made in the casinos. I won $5000 within an hour of sitting at a slot machine, and wound up chasing the dream of easy money very quickly. Soon, I was losing more than I’d won…I wrote bad checks and committed credit card fraud to feed my gambling addiction which created a vicious cycle that eventually landed me in prison, at Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility where I spent 2,976 days….and I will never forget that number!
My name is Mario Taylor and nearly three years ago, I was sitting where you are right now, graduating from the HOPE for Prisoners workshop, ready to move away from my past and explore the future that lay ahead of me.
I was 13 years old when I moved back to Las Vegas to live with my father.My grandmother had been raising me in Texas and had instilled values and morals in me that I still lean on today. The home that I thought awaited me was unlike anything I could ever imagine. I found myself faced with adversity.
My name is LaTeefa Starks. I am a graduate of the first class of this year. January 8, 2014 at 8 a.m. after serving 8 years in prison I got in touch with Jon Ponder at HFP. I had researched Hope since its inception. I began preparing for release from prison three years before my release. With the guidance of Chaplain Hill, Ms. Begun, Ms. Reeder and many other staff at FMWCC, Jean Camp, and my family/ church family I was able to get information on the resources available to me for a smooth transition and integration back into society.
I was released March 27, 2013. On May 3rd, 36 days after coming home, I had completed a week long intense training and was graduating from the Hope For Prisoners program. I was insecure, scared, and had a constant reminder wrapped around my ankle of my uphill battle to come…BUT…as I sat there, it was difficult to dwell on those thoughts and feelings because I was now equipped with a toolbox. A toolbox that included power tools… such as knowledge, values, wise choices, motivation, support, HOPE, …and Barbara Loupe’s 20 second smile:).
I spent 10 years and 4 months of my life serving time for Robbery with a deadly weapon. When I was released two years ago, I was blessed to come across the life changing experience called HOPE for Prisoners. I first heard about the opportunity to join HOPE for Prisoners from my Aunt Lashaun Foreman, she was trying to put me on the right path for a better life. To all of you reading this now, I once faced the same challenges you are facing today. I was uncertain about my future, but knew that I didn’t want to go back to prison. I wanted to have a chance in life.
A little more than two years ago, I graduated from the HOPE for Prisoners workshop. It was a pivotal moment in my life and a memory that makes me smile when I look back on it.
When, I was in the midst of my troubles, my addiction, I was neglecting everything important in life–especially my own well-being. I lost what I can only pray will return to me in time. I had put myself in such a bad place that I had no choice but to relinquish my rights to my first born daughter, Jaden Rose.