I had the audacity to believe that a prison sentence was not going to ruin my life

April 9, 2015

When Teresa Hodge entered prison to serve a seventy-month sentence for a white collar conviction, she was determined not to let it ruin the successful life she had worked so hard to build. She immediately began to focus on what her life would be when she returned to the outside – and she was not alone. Her daughter, Laurin Hodge, who had recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University, became her close collaborator and together they developed a business plan for a new and unique not-for-profit organization. “We decided that the way we would maintain our relationship and stay relevant in one another’s lives while I was away was to build an organization together,” Teresa explains. “When an individual goes to prison, their families go to prison too. Laurin and I wanted to make the experience count.”

Today, Laurin is the Executive Director and Teresa is the Director of Innovation & Strategy of Project Launch, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on making the reentry process safer and more efficient through technology. “By holding a series of talking sessions with service providers in the D.C. area, we learned that they were underutilizing new technologies that had the capacity to make re-entry much less stressful and time-consuming for returning citizens. So we organized the tech community to build a tool that providers can use in an open source manner. We’re currently beta-testing the new software and hope to make it available soon.” The software, called “Clean Slate D.C.,” will be able to answer returning citizens’ questions about record expungement in a matter of minutes. And it is just a beginning.

Teresa says that JustLeadershipUSA’s Leading with Conviction training has been invaluable. “Everyone who knows me can see the difference since the trainings. I was passionate and committed before, but I didn’t have a team of people around me to encourage me and give me that extra edge.” She likens the experience to going to a gas station: “I had the car, but I needed the gas. It’s very exciting to be around other people doing this work, people who are willing to stand up and boldly tell their stories. For me it has been empowering and uplifting to find a family who I can talk to and who understand as only those who have been through the prison experience can.”

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