A South Bend mom spent nearly 4 years in prison after being convicted of prescription fraud. She is out now and has turned her life around. But this month she went back to the Department of Corrections.
Alicia Brown is trying to give people the skills she found for herself.
There are few people who could connect with a room full of convicted felons like Alicia Brown.
That's because she was in their shoes.
“When I look at my history and all that I’ve been through I really consider it a desirable difficultly. I'm a scrapper. I'm coming up. I'm making something of the mess I’ve made of my life and I’m fighting with everything I have to get back,” says Brown.
Brown grew up in a loving family. She got good grades and was a cheerleader.
But after a serious of surgeries, she found herself addicted to the opioid pain pills.
“Basically I was taking pain medication and they were prescribing it to me,” says Brown. “All of a sudden. It was literally one day. I didn't want to go to work I wanted to stay on my couch and take my pills. It was at that moment that I craved that pill more than I craved life. And that is the flip of the switch.”
As her addiction to pain pills grew so did her life. She got married, maintained a great job and had a baby.
“For years I was spiraling out of control but still holding it together if that makes any sense,” says Brown, “from the outside looking in, life was great. But on the inside it was a mess. I tried to keep it separate as long as I could, but once you get arrested for prescription fraud it tends to blend together at that point.”
Brown was convicted of prescription fraud three times. The last time came when her son was just 4 months old.
“I can still remember Judge Miller’s face when she sentenced me the last time. She looked at me and she said, ‘you have got to do something different.’ At the time you are in shock so you are not sure what is happening. But she was right. I had to do something different or I was going to keep doing the cycle but now I had a child in the mix. Something had to change,” says Brown.
She spent nearly 4 years in prison. She missed time with her growing son and missed the death of her beloved father.
“You don't forgive yourself for that. You don't forgive yourself for not being there for a family. Or feeling left out. Those are feeling that drive me to stay sober. Because I am not missing another moment. I’m not. I refuse to miss another moment. I know where I am today my dad is proud of,” says Brown.
Brown is out of prison. She is clean. She has a good job at the Varsity Club in Mishawaka. Now, with the skills she learned in prison, she is helping others.
“So I take these skills and show them what they are. How to obtain them. And let’s roll with it,” say Brown.
Brown created a program called FANS. It stands for Fresh Attitudes for new Success.
It is based on a book she read while she was grieving the loss of her father. That book is called Jails to Jobs. It walks readers through seven steps to becoming employed after a conviction.
Browns program is now being taught to residents at the DuComb Center in South Bend. It is a work release facility.
Brown is teaching the class how to get their lives back and convince someone to give them a job. It is something that is a challenge for people with a conviction and can often be the difference between a better life and ending up back in prison.
The participants learn how to build a resume that highlights success and skills despite gaps during prison time. The learn how to talk to a potential employer about their conviction and how to live with social media.
“There is no reason anyone in this room should not have a job within 2 weeks. Within 2 weeks. I’m not kidding,” Brown told a room of participants as we sat in this week.
Perhaps the most important lesson she is teaching the people in the class: there is hope for a second chance.
“I can't go back. I can't change any of the mistakes I’ve made. If I could, I would. However. It has made me who I am. I am strong. I can do this. I can succeed. And I know others are right behind me,” says Brown.
Contact Alicia if you are interested in her program or providing some assistance: email@example.com