No Second Chances: Life with a Permanent Record

Facing Incarceration from University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (Eau Claire, Wisconsin), Incarceration

Kelly’s Story


I was seventeen the first time I got arrested. For years after that I continued to get arrested again and again, but nothing came of it until 2012. At twenty-two-years-old I was being charged with a felony. Despite this, over the next three years I continued to get charged with twelve other felonies—six of which I was convicted for. Of the felonies that I was convicted of, three were for possession of meth, two were for bail-jumping, and one was for the delivery of THC.

My story was on the front page of the newspaper three times, along with a photo of my face. I was charged with child neglect and my 11-month-old son was removed from my custody on December 22nd, 2014. This happened as a result of a detective finding drug paraphernalia in my house and my son testing positive for traces of meth in a hair follicle test. Although at the time my son wasn’t even living with me. Much of what the newspapers said about me was misleading information. I was never incarcerated, though, because instead I graduated the Alternatives to Incarcerating Mothers (AIM) Treatment Courts.

It wasn’t until I got placed into the AIM Courts that I really tried getting sober. Before then it had never felt like the “right day.” However, I knew that if I didn’t get sober I wouldn’t be able to be in the Courts, and that I would have to go to prison and lose everything I had.

The AIM Courts did so much for me. They gave me hope. Through the AIM Court system I got involved in various groups in the community. You can’t get sober otherwise. There I met people with long-term sobriety. I wanted to talk to people who have a solution—and these people did. Really it is life or death, and it was having a solution that kept me alive.

Fortunately, I have been able to turn my life around in the last year.

January will mark a full year of sobriety for me. I’ve also gotten my son back, I have a full-time job, and he and I are steadily living on our own. Regardless of all of my accomplishments in the last year, though, I will always be remembered as the “Mom Charged with Exposing Child to Meth.” I don’t want to make excuses for myself or act like I don’t deserve what has happened to me in my life, but it is really difficult to move on when that is how your name and face will always be remembered.

I am not my crimes. I want to be remembered for more than that.


As told to Alanna W. and Jessica N.

This story originally appeared in Behind the Faces of Criminal Justice in the Chippewa Valley, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Previous Post
Breaking Cycles
Next Post
‘Our’ Issue