By Brooke Henderson
In the back of her mind, Jhody Polk still finds herself wishing she was back in prison.
“So I can be safe,” Polk said.
Jhody grew up in a part of Gainesville where she said there weren’t many dreams to be had. She didn’t learn to love herself until she turned herself in to serve her time – seven years for felony convictions involving theft home invasion.
Prison gave her an escape from the hardships of the eastside of town. If she were honest with herself, it felt like each moment in her life was leading up to this point, where she could live away from the desperation and lost chances of her neighborhood, she said.
After being released, Jhody walked into freedom with a passion to be a lawyer that may never be realized. As a convicted felon, she’s not even allowed to attend certain law schools, much less practice. She also became one of almost 2 million ex-felons stripped of their voting rights.
No one would hire her, and she couldn’t find somewhere to live with her two children. But if her childhood had already taught her to survive, her time in prison guaranteed it.
She found her voice, creating the Florida Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls to support women like her who just want to live again. The motto? “Freedom from the inside out.”
“When I think about communities, I think about all the places that are dark with no light, because in the darkest places of this world, people are there too,” she said.
After prison, Jhody became a bridge. To learn more about how she’s creating opportunities in neighborhoods stuck in cycles on incarceration, poverty, and violence, watch this video.
Video Credits: Featuring: Jhody Polk & Devontez & McKinley & Takara & Lil Jhody & Chloe Dunnell & Shaneah Cobb & Felicia Richardson & Tequila McKnight Director: Uzo Aduba – Producers: Esther de Rothschild & Vincho Nchogu