hrough The W.I.R.E: My Search for Redemption is the story of a young woman who grew up in Washington, DC during the era of time when the crack epidemic was at its height. Shawn spent her most impressionable years in SE, DC and as her story unfolds she becomes a teen mom, drops out of high school and is deeply immersed in a life of crime. By the time Shawn was 19 years old her life had spiraled completely out of control and she landed herself in prison leaving behind two young children. Once she became incarcerated Shawn sought to rehabilitate herself. Her story is about the inner city subcultural values that lie at the root of the dramatic rise of the female prison population. A remarkable story about crime, violence and redemption through the eyes of a young woman born and raised in our Nation's Capital.
"The actions of my past have been like a cancer on my spirit, my work Through the W.I.R.E. has been my chemo." ~ Lashonia Thompson-El
About The Author:
Lashonia Thompson-El is a 42-year-old Washingtonian who was born and raised in S.E., D.C. As a youth she made a series of bad decisions that landed her in prison for a violent crime where she spent half of her life. By age 19 when Lashonia became incarcerated she was a teen mom, a high school dropout and she was unemployed, addicted to marijuana and deeply immersed in a life of crime. During her 18 years in prison she set out to rehabilitate and reform herself and make atonement to the utmost of her ability. She received her GED, began to pursue a college degree, helped develop and facilitate many classes from Job readiness, Victim Impact, Self Esteem and more. She also facilitated many wellness classes including group boot camp fitness classes. Most importantly she engaged in countless therapeutic programs. Lashonia was released on parole on December 13, 2011. She made parole after her initial hearing.
Since Lashonia was released her phenomenal support system has enabled her to obtain full time employment, enroll in college and begin to rebuild her life. In May of 2016 Lashonia received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Trinity Washington University. After release Lashonia participated in a series of residential transitional programs that enabled her to successfully reintegrate back into society. Lashonia has held several jobs since her release. In April of 2013 she was hired as the Female Reentry Coordinator for the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizens Affairs. In 2015 Lashonia became employed with the DC Corrections Information Council where she serves as a Program Analyst who inspects, monitors and writes reports on conditions of confinement in facilities where DC residents are incarcerated. As an advocate for reentry Lashonia has had the opportunity to speak at the local Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) Public Meeting, (CSOSA) Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency forums, the Annual Reentry Woman’s Conference at MCI Jessup, and the Warden’s Advisory Council in Alderson, W.V. An article about a round table discussion with Secretary of Education John King highlights Lashonia’s insight regarding the impact of mass incarceration on children.
Lashonia has been featured on a local cable television talk show along with Nancy Ware, The Director of CSOSA. She also took part in a Live Discussion with WHUTV in Washington, DC. The conversation about the impact of violence on communities can be viewed here: http://www.whut.org/whut/whutnotonemore. Lashonia has appeared on and various talk radio shows including WHUR – 96.3 and Serious XM (The Sighlent Storm and The Daily Drum). She is featured here in a 2014 interview with the DC Public Safety radio program: Listen here. She is the subject of the award winning documentary Time Zone https://vimeo.com/Short Short8177411. She speaks candidly and articulately about the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration on women and their families as well as the challenges of reentry and family reunification. Lashonia is also a writer. A piece Lashonia co-authored was published by the Vera Institute. It’s about the challenges of maintaining family and community ties while incarcerated. It can be seen here: http://humantollofjail.vera.org/fighting-for-face-time/
In June of 2013 Lashonia launched a non-profit organization known as The W.I.R.E. (Women Involved in Reentry Efforts). The W.I.R.E. is a network of previously incarcerated women who have joined together to provide social support to women currently incarcerated and women returning from incarceration. The W.I.R.E. has visited several Correctional Institutions for women, facilitating public forums to enlighten the community about the need for gender responsive criminal justice reform and gender responsive reentry needs. She has facilitated several family reunification activities and is invested in the leadership development of returning women. Lashonia is passionate about assisting women in prison and women returning from incarceration, but most importantly she is passionate about assisting children who have incarcerated mothers.
Lashonia believes that the key to reducing recidivism for women is to remove the barriers to family reunification. She contends that children who have incarcerated parents are not “collateral convicts” and they should not be made to bare the shame and stigma associated with their parents’ actions. The welfare of children with incarcerated parents is dependent upon the support systems in place that can prevent them from becoming victims of the “cradle to prison” pipeline. By providing wrap around services, love and support to children with incarcerated parents we, as a community, will undoubtedly reduce mass incarceration in half by 2030 https://www.justleadershipusa.org/leadership/#leaders.