Lisa Kratz Thomas is a survivor and an inspiration to many. Her past has given her the knowledge and expertise in the restoration of offenders lives after release and the many obstacles that not only got them there but threaten to send them back. She works tirelessly with inmates and re-entering former offenders, transforming lives just as she transformed her own. Lisa currently lives in Fredericksburg, VA with her husband and two children. Let’s meet her…
Who was Lisa Kratz Thomas at 18? 30?
At 18 I was a woman who was trying to meet an impossible standard that had set by society. The women’s movement philosophy combined with the sexual revolution of the 70’s and 80’s. You know the philosophy – “I am woman – hear me roar!” My focus was solely on how I looked, how many man were interested in me and how I could get ahead, all along feeling inadequate and insecure. At age 30, after years of trying to meet this impossible standard, having been addicted to drugs for close to 15 years, spending time behind bars and several trips to the psyche ward I had hit my bottom.
Why did Lisa make it and how did she find the strength to change the world one day at a time?
The day I was released from jail, I met my abusive, pimp boyfriend, walked across the street to the Pizza Hut, drank a pitcher of beer paid for it with a forged check and was back at the crack house that afternoon. Then soon after I was experiencing the same physical violence that I had been living before I went to jail. I picked up by bag, which held all my worldly belongings and left. Sitting outside on the curb in the ghetto of Washington, D.C. – I looked up and cried out to God for help. Not soon after I began my 23 year journey in 12-Step. Watching and listening to people who were just like, me who had found the strength through fellowship and their relationship with God to overcome, gave me the idea that maybe I could too!
Explain to the layman what prisoner re-entry is and why it’s important and how it relates to everyone? What has been your biggest obstacle in pushing this platform?
Prisoner re-entry is just a term used for an inmate who has served their time and will be released and be transitioning back into society. Each year 650,000 inmates will re-enter society from incarceration. Where do they go, what do they do? Re-entry is a multi-level endeavor. Due to their past behavior relationships have been damaged and most times when an offender is released they have no money, no transportation, nowhere to live and will carry a felony conviction for the rest of their life. This felony will make it extremely difficult for them to get a job. This has a tremendous effect on public safety. If there is no viable support for former offenders they often resort to previous criminal behavior to survive. So we can either choose to help them or they will be breaking in to your homes and cars and holding you up for survival.
Sometimes people are more likely to give support to a homeless puppy than there are a former offender. Society has this belief that if they committed the crime that is just part of their consequence. But when does this consequence end? When have you really served your time? For me – I stole a few checks and forged the signature – was it wrong, yes! But for the past 23 years and for the rest of my life, no matter what my accomplishments, I will always have to check the convicted felon box.
To help those who are re-entering or those who have a loved one who will be released my newly released book Overcoming Obstacles of Re-entry would be a great source of information and direction. It can be found on Amazon.com and lisakratzthomas.com.
What have you found to be the defining hardship within those struggling when it comes to addiction prevention and recovery?
The biggest hardship that people struggle with as it relates to addiction and recovery is the willingness to do whatever it takes to get and stay sober. I do believe we more affordable rehabs, but I also know that you can recover if you truly want to. I was in a few rehabs, but I got sober in 12 Step – going to sometimes 3 – 4 meetings a day for the first few years and still today after 23 years I have not abandoned my roots in 12-Step recovery.
Tell us about your family life growing up as well as your immediate family now?
I will share my childhood in a brief story: Once upon a time there was a little girl, blonde, cute and outgoing. She was the big sis to two baby brothers and lived in a modest brick home with her parents. On her daily walk home from Our Lady of Sorrows grade school, this five year old kindergartner would cross the playground, and go through the field over a bridge connecting two sides of a small brook. One day, stopping for a moment on the bridge, she gazed into the trickling water and wondered if I fell in would anyone miss me? And maybe the world would be better off. Sad thoughts for such a young child, but you see this is how it all begins – in our mind. This is where the true battlefield lies.
This past week I celebrated 23 years of marriage to the most remarkable man in the world. He saw greatness in me and he shed his blessing on me. He has allowed me to become all that God has intended me to be. He knew when I needed understanding and when I need guidance. His love has allowed me to live in such a level of peace and security that I have been free to become and be me – with all my imperfections. Together we have two of the most mature, smart, kind hearted children around. Both are scholars and followers of the Lord. If I had gotten what I wanted in life I would have cut myself short!
Tell us about your book, and former radio show and who would be your ideal target market with each.
My target market is anyone who has ever overcome anything and has the courage to change. Whether it is addiction, physical disabilities, poverty or low self-worth, you will enjoy my book – This is Your Life – Not a Dress Rehearsal. Although I no longer host my weekly radio show, there are plenty of archives on my website on Sound Cloud, which would prove inspirational to anyone seeking to live a positive, purpose driven life.
Can you share a success story during your journey of someone who was driven by your story of redemption?
In 2004 I founded a non-profit, transitional program for women in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was a one of kind program that assisted inmates, provided resources to the newly released and housing for 7 women at a time who were re-entering. The women who participated in the residential aspect of the program where all successful, in fact before New Vision closed in 2009, due to financial barriers, the recidivism rate was an astounding ZERO Percent!!!
Currently and for the past two years I have been contracted with the Virginia Department of Corrections to visit 17 of the 38 prisons that have a designated re-entry program to present my re-entry seminar. Evaluations which are submitted by each participant show that because I have been where these inmates are and that I have made it out they are driven to do the same.
What do you do for fun?
My purpose in life is fun… there is nothing more inspirational and exciting than see a life turn around!! I enjoy exercising – I walk about 12 miles a week, I love yoga and adore music. My husband and I really enjoy hiking and experiencing the beauty of God’s majesty. I also love healthy cooking.
When you look back what things or events do you think played a major role in the path you initially took and what would you say to young girls who may meet those same crossroads in their futures?
You are somebody – individual and special. Who you are is more important than what you are. That your body and your virginity are the most precious valuable aspects of being a woman – don’t give either away as if it were a breath mint or stick of gum. You have a purpose, you are powerful and beautiful. You are the keeper and bearer of life, you have been entrusted to birth future generations, not only physically but soulfully (mind, spirit and body). YOU ARE SOMEBODY BABY!!!!!
What makes you a connected woman?
Caring about others, not forgetting that we are human beings all created in the image of God. Remembering where I was and how I felt – how drugs and alcohol just about killed me. It was other people who God placed in my path that pulled me up and brought me out!!!
If you could write your younger self a letter, knowing what you know now, what point would you try to drive home in your correspondence?
I am one of a kind, uniquely created – there is only one me and I am ok.
What can other women do to help in their local areas?
Be a mentor, don’t be afraid to share and give advice. We can’t let the Beyonce’s and Miley Cirus’ of the world mold and shape the image of what a woman should be. We are more than hips and thighs – we are more precious than rubies and more beautiful than the rose of Sharon. Helping one woman at a time can change the world!
We think you’re awesome but knowing one’s worth can be an uphill battle. What is one thing you know for sure about yourself now that you struggled with believing in the midst of the lows of your past?
That I am worthy of love – not because of sex or what I could do for the other person, but I am worthy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us. How can our readers reach out to you?
For more information visit Lisakratzthomas.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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