• The myth of American Exceptionalism promotes the stratification of individuals into good and bad and promotes power over others.
  • People harmed and people who have harm need pathways for healing and reconciliation. Healing does not occur in our current justice system.

Her voice was clear and strong and her message deeply relational. Ivy Mathis, the founder of Successful Imperfections and a formerly incarcerated woman stepped to the mike at the Heart of Reconciliation Conference in NOLA and shared a simple, powerful message – anyone leaving prison should experience “Dignity on Day 1”. Ms. Mathis spoke on the last day of the November 2022 conference and as an attendee and conference planner, I was running on fumes. But her description of providing a care package with a pair of new underwear and make-up to women leaving prison landed on me with an eye-popping thud. Her organization promises more than the care packages – they also provide essential services like mentoring, counseling, and educational and employment resources to help women navigate the difficult transition from prison to freedom. But the underwear grabbed me – so personal, so vulnerable, so uniquely human. And a small window into what is taken from a person when he/she/they enter the American for-profit prison system.

The Heart of Reconciliation Conference was designed to offer stakeholders in the criminal legal system a chance to convene, to connect and to heal in a trauma informed space. There was no denial about the magnitude of violence and dehumanization that people are subject to when they enter the prison system. Everyone who attended the conference had been involved in the “