A better way forward
A Resonance Center for Women program transforms the lives of those who choose to change.
Katrina Clampitt and Cathy Hodges
Katrina Clampitt’s life has never been easy, but 2012 was exceptionally difficult for the 36-year-old mother of two from Sperry, Oklahoma. Within 12 months, she divorced her husband of 10 years and mourned the death of the grandmother who raised her.
Instead of seeking help to process her emotions in healthy ways, Clampitt says she dealt with her pain the only way she knew: by “zoning out” through partying and drinking.
Any relief she found was short-lived. Clampitt’s lifestyle ultimately garnered her 10 speeding tickets in one year and culminated in a serious car accident in September 2013 that injured a motorcyclist.
Although the man eventually recovered, Clampitt learned shortly after the accident that her driver’s license had been suspended for a year without her knowledge.
Charged with causing an accident without a valid license, Clampitt was taken to jail. At her hearing, she was given the maximum penalty for her crime: five years in prison.
“The judge said that because I had so many tickets, I felt like the law didn’t apply to me,” she says.
In prison, Clampitt says she became “just a number.” Worse than being locked up was the precious time apart from her 14-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, who went to live with their father.
Clampitt’s own parents were largely absent, making her upbringing unstable, to say the least — something she didn’t want to repeat for her family.
“I didn’t ever want my children to come see me while I was gone,” says Clampitt, who kept in touch with weekly phone calls from prison. “They knew where I was and what was going on, but I didn’t want them to see me in a place like that.”
After being moved to various correctional facilities because of overcrowding, Clampitt eventually was transferred to Turley Residential Center, a work-release halfway house for approximately 180 female offenders. The facility and its staff were a breath of fresh air.
“They treat you like you’re a client, like you’re not just an inmate,” Clampitt says. “They actually call you by your name.”
At Turley, Clampitt applied for Choosing to Change, a holistic program facilitated by the Tulsa nonprofit Resonance Center for Women.
Choosing to Change is a one-year program with three phases. Phase one is an intensive eight-week re-entry program that gives Turley residents tools to deal with substance abuse and relationship issues to help them successfully transition from prison back into society. Women enter phases two and three dependent upon their work release and release status from Turley. In January, Choosing to Change celebrated its first year, during which it graduated 55 women.
Clampitt eagerly soaked up information shared in the program’s weekly sessions on relapse prevention, job readiness training, mentoring, computer training, relationship education and exercise. Resonance staff and community partners, including DVIS, Planned Parenthood, Workforce Tulsa and Total Pilates, each teach parts of the curriculum.
For Clampitt and many other women, the program has been life changing.
“They just give you so much confidence,” she says. “They make you want to go forward and do better things than just going back in the same slump that got you into this situation.”
Clampitt says the Victim Impact course administered by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma was especially insightful.
“It’s about who you’ve hurt,” she says. “It could be your neighbor, your brother, your community — all the people that you affect.”
Cathy Hodges, Resonance’s re-entry program coordinator, says many Choosing to Change participants have been unable to see the long-term consequences of their actions and decisions for themselves, let alone others.
That’s because they were focused on feeding their alcohol or drug habits, she explains.
“Different ones have said, ‘I never thought about how my life or the choices I made affected other people because I didn’t feel like I mattered. I didn’t have any significance, so anything that I did only affected me,’” Hodges says.
Like Clampitt, many of the women were raised in homes with rampant addiction. Chaotic upbringings, domestic violence and a lack of human connection also are familiar patterns, according to Hodges.
“I don’t meet anybody (in the program) who comes from a family that has productive, healthy relationships within it,” she says.
As the program’s name suggests, participants are in charge of their own recovery plans, a process that begins while they remain incarcerated. Hopefully, they choose to implement the plan after their release.
“They make all their own plans,” Hodges says. “We just give them the information and the skills that can support what they’re choosing to do because they’re the expert on their lives and their addictions. So, they’ll be the experts on their recovery.”
Alice Johnson, Turley’s facility administrator, says participants in the Choosing to Change program become more goal-oriented and professional than their counterparts at the center. She attributes the transformation to the many opportunities the program provides to show them “they can do more” than they previously thought.
“The women are inspired and they believe in themselves again,” she says.
Of the many Choosing to Change partners, Johnson says she believes Tulsa Community College provides participants the most significant lifelong
The TCC partnership allows Choosing to Change participants to earn a Business Computer Users certificate and take college classes while they are incarcerated.
“That can make the difference in their lives as far as employment goes and for their children,” Johnson says.
One of the newest program partners is the Junior League of Tulsa, a group that has served Resonance on and off as needed for more than 20 years.
Whitney Mathews, chairwoman of the League’s Choosing to Change committee, says the service organization has regularly met with program participants since fall 2014.
“We go there every other week to foster relationships with the women and work on ‘soft skills’ and social interaction,” she says.
Most of their time spent together is just “hanging out” and often includes projects for others in need, such as making goody bags for the soon-to-close Laura Dester Emergency Children’s Shelter.
Some of the Junior League members have taken on unexpected mentorship roles, Mathews adds, but ultimately the group has been surprised by what they all have in common.
“Once you get out there and meet them, they’re just women like us,” Mathews says. “You grow to care about their families, about what they learned in yoga last week. You become engrained in their world.”
Completion of the Choosing to Change program is marked with a graduation ceremony for participants that includes their peers, the Resonance staff and program partners and, often, their family members.
Clampitt graduated Dec. 12 and was released shortly afterward from Turley with a GPS ankle monitor. She reunited with her children two days before Christmas. They currently live together in Sperry with Clampitt’s boyfriend of two years.
She started a full-time job at Capital One in February and is taking two business classes at TCC this spring. She relies on friends and family for transportation but is in the process of regaining her driver’s license.
The court will review her case in May, but she hopes the six months she has already served in prison will satisfy the judge and earn her a deferred sentence.
Hodges can’t say enough about Clampitt’s commitment to recovery.
“Katrina is determined in a way not all women are,” Hodges says. “She hit the ground running. She showed up. She was ready to do work. She was enthusiastic about it.”
Indeed, Clampitt’s outlook is bright. She is grateful for the opportunities and education she has received through Choosing to Change and other programs.
“Going through this — I don’t see it as a bad thing at all,” she says. “Everything happens for a reason in life. For me, it was to bring me closer to my family, to be more understanding. Before I would have blocked it out.”
Driving her recovery is the motivation to be there for her children — a support she didn’t have growing up.
“I’m their role model and I’ve got to be that person for them,” she says. “I’ve got to be better than I want them to be.”
Resonance is always seeking positive female role models for its mentorship program. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, contact Mentoring Coordinator Letricia Lewis at 918-284-2124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.