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Life Lessons: Finding life after prison

Published On: Apr 30 2014 04:00:00 AM CDT

Life Lessons: Finding life after prison

Right now in the United States, there are as many as 200,000 women behind bars, and more than one million women on probation and parole.

Many of those women have families that are torn apart when mom enters the criminal justice system.

However, one organization is helping women pick up the pieces when they are ready to start over.

Marsha Banks is a woman on a mission. She's the founder of a busy non-profit called Amiracle4sure, has a master's degree in public service, matriarch of a tight-knit family of eight, grandmother of seven, and not afraid to share her past with drugs and the law.

"I got sentenced to one and a half to five years, endangering the welfare of my children,” says Banks.

After two years in prison, Banks was released and determined to have a fresh start.

"I needed to stay clean," she explained. "I needed to stay focused [and] I needed to take care of my family."

For thousands of women, re-entry into life after prison isn't easy.

Sabrina Whitsel served eight years for a fatal drunk driving accident. When she got out, she had no place to live, no job, and limited skills.

"I was, you know, computer illiterate and I didn’t even know how to use a cell phone,” recalls Whitsel.

Her prayers were answered when someone referred her to Marsha Banks.

For the past 10 years, Banks has helped women transition from prison by finding them housing, child care, job training, and full-time employment.

Whitsel works 40 hours a week at a local thrift store. Without a support system, many women land back behind bars.

Marsha Banks calls her own success a miracle.

"I really wish I could tell you that it was more than that, but I am a miracle for sure," Banks said.

She's one woman, defying the odds and helping others do the same.

Right now, all 12 apartments Marsha has are full, and she is looking for more housing.

Her after-school program is also helping 20 more families. Marsha gets funding from the state and private donations.

By the way, Banks' oldest son Timothy also spent time in prison.

When he was released he followed in his mother’s footsteps, founding the Building Achievements and Raising Standards, or “BARS" program, a mentoring program for young men.