Program at Rockville Correctional Facility puts focus on women veterans

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PARKE Co., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A program at Rockville Correctional Center is focusing on uplifting female inmates who’ve served the United States.

“If there’s a such thing as normal, I want to work, I want to buy a house. I want to have a life. Enjoy my freedom. I mean, I fought for it. I might as well enjoy it,” said Lori Smith, an incarcerated veteran.

For 8 years, Smith served in the Marine Corp.

“It’s the highlight of my life. The most proud thing I’ve done,” she said.

Then, the direction of her life changed.

“I served in Somalia, I was shot in Somalia. I also did some other things that affected me. In the process of recovery, I became addicted to pain pills,” she said.

Smith’s addiction led to other choices.

“In my mind, that’s where my problems with the law began, in prescription frauds and stuff like that. So I started on heroin and my life spiraled out of control. In four months I had four cases in four counties,” said Smith.

Her actions eventually sent her to prison for 7-and-a-half years.

“I stole a credit card. Took it from a house, so that’s a burglary charge. And here I sit,” Smith said.

With the help of an incarcerated veterans group run by the prison, she isn’t letting her past define her. The group provides counseling, life skills, information about employment resources and camaraderie.

“They really need to focus on where they came from and not what got them in prison. And be able to focus on that when they get on the outside. Not so much what they did to get here in the beginning,” said program coordinator, Kristen Selvia-Butler.

According to Smith, the program has been a benefit to her life.

“I feel really lucky that there’s something like that and somebody who cares enough about your service to take the time to reach out, get information, make contacts, have people come in and talk to you. Anything like that is going to help,” Smith said.

With just months left until the end of her time behind the prison walls, Smith is looking to a better future.

“I’m not a bad person. You know, I’ve done good things as well as made mistakes. So now I just have to do more good things,” said Smith.

The program’s goal is to start an American Legion on the prison grounds.

Those interested in volunteering with the group may contact Kristen Selvia-Butler at Kselvia@idoc.in.gov or 765-569-3178 Ext.456.

The program is looking for mentors and volunteers to present to the women.

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