Solano Program Graduates Embrace New Life
By Melissa Murphy
"I am accepting the new me."
"The new me is not scared or afraid of taking on new challenges," said Ashland Timberlake, 25, after graduating form Solano County's Women's Re-entry Achievement Program.
It was an emotional day for Timberlake as she accepted her certificate and wish from case managers Pat Nicodemus and Patty Ayala. While she has accomplished a lot, she was also reminded that her mother, who passed away, was not there to see her accomplishment.
"I thank God and I appreciate the program that helped me change my life," she said while she accepted her certificate.
Still, she's moving forward and changing her life and stopping the cycle she's been on since she was 18 years old going in and out of jail.
"It's been about finding yourself, bettering yourself and healing," she said and added that the next goal is to get her high school diploma.
WRAP is designed to help women while they are in jail and after they are released to deal with the trauma in their lives, avoid the obstacles that can lead to re-offending and help them make a successful transition back into society.
WRAP is a unique model that uses gender-based risk assessments and trauma-informed case management. It works as a partnership between Health and Social Services, the Sheriff's Office, Probation Department, District Attorney's Office of Family Violence Prevention, Public Defender, the Re-entry Council and community partners, including Mission Solano, to assist the women who have a moderate to high risk of returning to the system. The county received a grant to fund the program through 2015.
Shonna Tibbetts, 29, was on the verge of losing her daughter after being involved in an armed robbery. After surviving domestic violence, Tibbetts explained that her life spun out of control.
"I couldn't handle it," she said. "I started to use (drugs) and with that lifestyle comes other things."
She said Nicodemus and Ayala advocated for her to be a part of WRAP, which changed her life. Thursday she was proud to be wearing a pink shirt and jeans instead of a jail jumpsuit with stripes.
Her daughter, 9-year-old Tiana Jones, is happy to be back living with her mother.
"I'll get to be a mom again," Tibbetts said. "This, to me, is a second chance."
Nebula Qautlebaum was living homeless in a tent in Fairfield and Vallejo. During Thursday's graduation she admitted that she was glad she got caught and arrested for trying to steal alcohol.
"I was hopeless, lost and desperate for a change," she said. "I forgot about my kids, forgot about myself and forgot about everything that was important to me."
"When I was arrested I thanked God, because it was all over," she recalled.
She explained that WRAP allowed her a safe place to talk and that through WRAP and the Bridge to Life Program at Mission Solano helped her get back on her feet.
"It's been a really awesome journey in WRAP," she said.
The people gathered to support the graduates included judges, county supervisors, family and friends, and they couldn't be more proud.
Guest speaker Velda Dobson-Davis, retired deputy chief warden of California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said the women rose to the occasion of making the needed changes.
"The generational curse is broken," she said. "All eyes are on you, you've taken a step and started something and finished."
"I get to meet you here and not behind a wall," she continued. "You made it."
Raymond Courtemanche, director of operations for Mission Solano, encouraged the graduates to "keep trying to do the right thing for the right reasons."
"From my heart to yours, I pray for God's peace and purpose for each of you," he said.
The 2014 WRAP graduates include: Alexandria Butler, Alicia Cabrera, Honora Harrington, Arnetta Island, Nebula Quatlebaum, Megan Smith, Shonna Tibbetts, Ashland Timberlake and Katherine Wheeler.