Testif-i | Storytelling for Change is a multimedia initiative from A New Way of Life Reentry Project that aims to transform the public dialogue on mass incarceration through storytelling, and the lived experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals.
On Friday, May 20th, filming for the next installment of Testif-i began with Terri and Moonlight, two residents at A New Way of Life. Terri and Moonlight are two individuals chosen to share their stories as a way to heal from their past and bring awareness to specific issues surrounding the criminal justice system.
As a child, Terri experienced abuse from trusted caregivers and was charged with kidnapping in an attempt to get themselves and another child away. This event was the beginning of Terri’s involvement with the criminal justice system. In 1977, Terri was sentenced to seven years to Life and served 44 years. While incarcerated, the staff would tell Terri, “You’re going to die here”.
Terri became complacent and was tired of going to the board to be told no. A parole board is a panel of people who decide whether an offender should be released from prison on parole after serving a minimum portion of their sentence. Before going to board, Terri saw a friend on TV talking about A New Way of Life Reentry Project and it gave them hope.
Their first day out was terrifying, “I was so scared that day…!” Society has minimal resources for the formerly incarcerated and even less for formerly incarcerated senior citizens. A New Way of Life has offered Terri a home and other resources necessary to their reentry success. In the future, Terri hopes to support systems-impacted youth by helping them learn skills so they can lead self-sufficient lives.
After Moonlight was released in 1985, they struggled to find reentry services and resources. Moonlight cycled in and out of incarceration—after years of this, Moonlight found themselves with a life sentence. Moonlight was sent to a prison far from her children and family—no one was able to visit, and she rarely received phone calls. For years, Moonlight asked to be transferred closer to family and was told no time after time. Being away from their family felt like double punishment. After 26 years, Moonlight knew she wanted a different life and found A New Way of Life Reentry Project. Moonlight refers to the program as a blessing for supporting their transition back into society.
To hear Terri and Moonlight’s stories and others, follow our social media accounts to get updates about the video vignettes that will be released sometime this year.