“You Know They Care” Emotional story of one female offender

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“We made a mistake. And it doesn’t mean that we’re less than. It just means that we made a mistake, and we’re here trying to do our time.”

An emotional Toni Barnett talks about the struggles of being incarcerated.

“I hate to be in prison. But I’m so glad that I’m with MTC at Lockhart, because the leadership here, you know they care.”

Toni says what they’re learning at Lockhart is making a difference in their lives.

“So they’re teaching you in here how to maneuver through issues that you’re going to be in when you go home.”

MTC took over operations of the Lockhart facility in 2015. Toni remembers the day.

“When MTC came and I remember my first interaction with the major. She said you have to give us some time. We’re new, but we’re going to get everything that needs to be done taken care of. And I mean in a matter of months, I tell you, things have started changing.”

And today, Toni sums up her experience at Lockhart with two words:

“It’s wonderful.”

In addition to a lot of programming, Toni has the opportunity to serve as a peer educator…helping other female offenders.

“Even though I’m in here, I get an opportunity to help somebody else learn or to become a better person or to give what I have to someone else and help them along the way, because some of the ladies in here, they come from a different place, and they’re scared to go back to that same place.”

“It’s all about respect. If you treat them with respect, then they treat you with respect, vice versa. And I tell them that we all have to be BIONIC, the offenders and the staff have to be BIONIC.”

Officer Cierra Colbert talks about what’s made the difference at Lockhart. It’s the BIONIC or believe it or not I care approach.

“We don’t put them down. We don’t curse at them. In retrospect, they kind of treat us better too because they’re not scared, they’re not intimidated. They know they can come up to us and know that we’re going to actually answer their question and really do what we can and not just blow them off.”

And while that may over simplified, Toni says it’s made all the difference in the world.

“The officers here speak to you with kindness and call you by your last name. They say Ms. Barnett. They’re never rude.”

“Here, Warden Frawner, Warden Holligan, and I work with the major, the captain—they’re in the hallway. You can stop and speak to them. They talk to you. They listen. They hear you.”