Many of us can identify a person, or a couple of people, responsible for helping us become who we are today. Tamika had some of those people during her time at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Muncy. Now, she wants to be one of them for others.
At sixteen, Tamika was sentenced to die in adult prison. She felt alone. But, because, as she says, “my mom kept me in the church as a kid,” that’s where she went during this particularly difficult time. She found comfort in the church, especially in dancing and drumming groups. At the same time, she had faith in something else: the appeals process.
Her faith was tested when her final appeal was denied after years of incarceration. Her faith was shattered. She quit her job. She quit the church. She settled into the understanding that she would spend her remaining years in prison. She was distraught.
Then, one of those people showed up for Tamika. Her spiritual advisor reminded her of her own words: “Tamika, you are always telling people to believe. Don’t just talk about it; be about it.” At that moment, Tamika says, “I decided that, if this is going to be my life, I’m going to make it my best life.” Tamika reengaged in church and in many of the other programs━social, educational, and mental health━available to her.
In 2019, her faith was rewarded when the U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions that made her release a possibility. In partnership with Tamika and her dedicated legal team, YSRP worked to prepare a report that gave the prosecutor and judge more context about her life, and an actionable plan for her long-anticipated release from prison. Now, Tamika wants to be what that spiritual advisor was for her. Recently, she started working at One Day At A Time (ODAAT), where she gets to support those trying to make life changes. “That’s my life mission,” Tamika says, “to make someone else’s day.”
After more than two decades of incarceration, Tamika is experiencing liberation through her work – “it’s therapeutic for me,” she says. Known for showing leadership as a mentor while at Muncy, she continues to mentor others now that she is home. Yes, she was away for a long time, but she wants no pity. “I don’t want people to feel bad for me. [When they hear my story,] I want them to walk away thinking, ‘we need to change some laws to make sure no other young kid goes through this alone.’”
What a legacy that would be.
Before the end of the year, we aim to raise $200,000 to enable YSRP’s continued work to keep youth out of the adult system and to support Juvenile Lifers in their transition back home. If inspired, please consider making a gift in Tamika’s honor.