Community Connection Program brings hope!

March 27, 2023

The Rock Found 1542 7th Ave. Greeley, CO 80631

Dear Rock Found,

I hope this reeches you well and in high spirits. I am currently incarcerated at Sterling Correctional Facility, on my 11th calendar, and have felt like this year has been the first year I truly felt incarcerated. I know right? It's only the third month. The reason I am writing is not to complain about my situation, but to thank you for the work you do and to hopefully convey my gratitude for one of your re-entry navigators, Amanda Lucas.

Okay, a brief background on where I came from over these eleven years. There is no way around the fact that I committed my crime and it was while high. I have been sober since July 6, 2012. I committed a very heinous crime, also had a lot of violence in my history. While incarcerated I vowed sobriety and non-violence. I worked with every walk of life to better their circumstance and create space for incarcerated people to learn and value themselves. Most recently, I - with a team - created and ran the DOC inmate newspaper The Inside Report, and in addition I led the GRACE Alliance team's newsletter. I am elgible for community corrections now, and parole next May. A year ago, i f you asked, I would have said everything was in my favor - I'd get out and succeed no worries and had a team behind me to support that theory. Around this time I volunteered for RESTORE and helped with in-reach program working with community partners such as yourself. I wrote the first article about community partners in the newspaper. I worked lived at for 10 1⁄2 years. I cannot explain the trauma with these types of moves. But the journey was just that, and I had hope. I ran into a world of triggers and circumstances I could have fell back into old behaviors, dealing with depression, doubt and even suicide. A flashback to my initial time in prison.

So, all this to lead to the genuine appreciation I hold for your extraordinary staff. I met Amanda at Fremont a little under a year ago. Her tanacity and warmth carried a very impactful message when I noticed her booth had the least amount of visitors. She is very relatable, compassionate, understanding, real, and again is extraordinary. Working with the community in here, I got to speak to people who gave feedback on the community partners. There was always - ALWAYS - a few that said they wished they were going to northern Colorado to work with the Rock Found.

Bring this to today. I'm facing more frustration and difficulties than I care to admit. Prison is great at making isolation the forefront reality for us. It reminds me of my addiction. I'm great a t self-sabotage, and I needed something to grasp. I made it to an in-reach (which wasdifficult to get to), and I saw familiar faces. It was nice. But then, I sat with Ms Lucas and spoke about recent stuff. Her mention of difficulities with participants of your program gave me insight to what I may face. But, I felt how genuine her ambitions are and I spoke openly about my addiction - of course not in detail. She asked if I was going t o northern Colorado, and had all the services ready to roll out for me. That is priceless, someone to care that much.

I need to reiterate, I'm not elgible for parole until next May, but at the moment we were talking, I felt hope for my own re-entry. Ms. Lucas became very much the core reason we need these programs in here. I came back and told couple men who are soon going to be attending in-reach programs that are from the counties supported by The Rock Found and I talked about all the resources and services that are waiting for them. I then realized, I became on of those men from Fremont, talking about The Rock Found.

I came back that day in the afternoon session. I ideally would have had all of my questions answered in the morning, and not bothered Ms. Lucas any more. But it didn't feel that way when I came back. Knowing she herself battled with addiction, I had questions for her. Now, over the years I have always been the hub to direct people to resources even AA. I know where to go, I know there are people to talk to. Shit, Peter Kimis a close friend, and he's also a WAGES provider and was at the in-reach. But addiction is personal, shameful, dark, and not easily shared.

My chest is tight. My eyes are watery. I don't think I can convey this next part with out giving you those physical descriptions. Extraordinary - I used this two times to describe your staff . Extra, being more than or above what is given or needed. Ordinary - base lovel, center o frange, common. Ms. Lucas offered me in an ordinary way, a meek and compassionate way extra care and attention. In one conversation, the dred I felt from the journey starting on January 25th to this day left my immediate worries. She related to me, offered support, and just took the time to listen.

I lived a great life before and during prison. I've held great jobs, and helped many people. I encountered hardships and struggles and tried to make the best of them. I his last year tore my core away, and the doubt I had was very real. Because of Ms. Amanda Lucas - I have the strength, or should I say the confidence back to know that I have the strength to succeed after prison. I know it's a struggle, and won't be easy, but I know there are people tohelp in the struggle, without judgement, and to push for accountability - and I truly hope I have a re-entry navigator like her.

Thank you for reading this long letter. Please know the work you are doing and the staff you have doing it gives light in such a dark place, hope in isolation, and compassion where there is shame and doubt.


Anthony Ray Valdez

Incarcerated Person - Sterling Correctional Facility