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Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women Hosts 10th Annual Reentry Conference

November 27, 2018

By Rachel Friederich

DOC Communications

Three women in front of a folding table and the American flag

Kacei Lidwell (far right) speaks with fellow reentry panelists Amy Moore (left) and Lisa Savard (center). Lidwell is now a published author and business owner. (Rachel Friederich, DOC Communications)

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BELFAIR – A nutrition assistant at a local hospital. A college student. A business owner and published author.

If someone were to meet these three women on the street, they’d probably never guess they used to be incarcerated.

But that’s the common connection between Lisa Savard, Amy Moore, and Kacei Lidwell. All three served time inside both of the state’s women’s prisons.

Now they share a new connection. Savard, Moore, and Lidwell recently returned to Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. This time as free citizens and members of a reentry panel at the prison’s 10th Annual Women’s Conference.

“I want these ladies to know they can change,” said Savard, who, after going to prison twice on identity theft and forgery charges, now works at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. “If I can do it, any one of them can. A lot of people think they’re damaged goods, but they’re not. I want them to know that.”

Savard and the other panelists talked openly about the hurdles they faced after leaving prison: Struggles with addiction. Finding a job and affordable housing. Reuniting with their children and leaving abusive relationships. Discovering their sense of self-worth.

Besides the panel, 156 incarcerated women at Mission Creek attended workshops on other reentry topics such as enrolling in college, effective job searches, obtaining driver’s licenses, using the local library, and determining transportation. More than 30 community organizations and agencies led workshops during the conference on October 11 and 12, 2018.

Kacei Lidwell said she had a rough couple of years after she released from prison in 2015. She managed to get a well-paying job working at a plastics manufacturing company. But she lost her job because she didn’t disclose her felony assault conviction on her job application. Lidwell’s boss found out about her criminal history when Lidwell was up for a promotion.

Instead of giving up, Lidwell said she took some online health industry courses. In her spare time, she wrote a journal about her struggles. Eventually, her journal became a published book. Lidwell also took out a small business loan and she’s just weeks away from opening her own business—a health spa and life coaching company.

“When one opportunity goes out the door, let the next opportunity find you,” Lidwell said. “I wasn’t living to my best potential. I had to surrender my past and all I went through. I had to put that behind me…I realized what I was familiar with, my gifts and talents and figured out how I can make money for me. I don’t have to be worried about being fired again and you don’t know how free that feels.”

Amy Moore went in and out of prison three times since 2008. She’ll be on community supervision until the middle of next year for her last convictions—identity theft and possession of a controlled substance. She’s also attending school full time at Lower Columbia College, majoring in information technology. In a year and a half she’ll have her associate degree, but she also has plans to finish a bachelor’s degree.

Moore says this time around is different for her. The most valuable piece of advice she offered the crowd was “let your Department of Corrections (DOC) officer know what’s going on with you and that you have a plan.” Moore said correctional staff helped her arrange to attend school while on work release. “Ultimately, if I don’t do everything I’m supposed to be doing, I’m going back to jail, and then I’m going to lose everything and go back to prison. Your DOC officer is a big resource for you.”

Savard added it’s essential to remove all the toxic people in your life. Savard said she lived at an Oxford House for the first year and a half after her prison release. Oxford Houses are group homes dedicated to clean and sober living. During that time, she ended a relationship with an abusive man and found strength from the positive women she lived with.

“It’s a good way to keep support,” Savard said. “I was lonely when I was released. But those women are now some of my very closest and best friends.”

Savard said she also found motivation from all the recovery programing offered at the prison, such as the Therapeutic Community. During her last incarceration, Savard’s cellmate told her stories of abuse she endured from her parents because of their drug abuse.

“I realized the story my kids were telling about me,” Savard said. “That’s not the story about me anymore. That may be the story of the first couple of chapters, but just keep focused, love yourself, love your children, and your family, have a schedule and stay away from toxicities. You can deal with whatever obstacle comes your way if you relax and take them one at a time. Just don’t get overwhelmed, because when blessings come up on you, blessings come in abundance.”