Community Spotlight: Tracey Monteiro & The Letter of Explanation

Tracey Moneteiro is a career coach with her own consulting business–Power Up Consulting. Within her business she supports justice-involved individuals navigating their own career pathways and helps organizations who open and create pathways for justice-involved individuals. Tracey has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Metro State University, and a master’s degree from the University of Colorado-Denver in criminal justice and administration. She has worked as an advocate for criminal justice reform for over 15 years and in workforce development efforts for the past 6 years.

Knowing your Background

I interviewed Tracey because she is the program facilitator for the Letter of Explanation at Women’s Bean Project. The Letter of Explanation is essentially a document used by participants to relay their stories. It highlights their reflection on what really caused them to be justice-involved or to have the background that they have. Through this reflection women can come to terms with what happened with their conviction and with those around them. From that base they are able to look at the employer’s point of view, the housing program’s point of view and, as Tracey put it, have a dialogue to say, “I do recognize why you may have some hesitation and allowing me in this door but I want you to look at my efforts and how I’ve changed my life, I want you to see that I’m more than just the worst choice that I’ve had in my life, the worst decision that I’ve made, and so, if you would give me that opportunity then I’m sure I can fulfill what you’re looking for in an employee or in a resident.”

Know your Rights

Tracey starts the workshop by making sure the participants know their rights. As she says, “it is essential to know about the laws that hinder you entering into certain industries or roles and why that is, but also, knowing what your rights are and having an assessment for your individual situation really gives you a fair chance to compete with other qualified individuals.” Additionally, she teaches women to know their convictions and how those convictions may impact their search for jobs or for housing. She works with every woman individually so that their letter of explanation is a true and honest reflection of their own experiences and where they are now.

The Challenges

While the process is very rewarding, there are some challenging aspects. Many of the women Tracey works with must combat internalized oppression in addition to discrimination. Society stigmatizes the justice-involved in such a deep way that it can often impact the way those individuals see themselves, making them feel that they have limited options and agency. As Tracey stated, having this view of “less than worthy” can discourage women from seeking changes, and “moving beyond those internal barriers to really go for what’s out there and to really seek programs, such as the Women’s Bean Project, who are saying we understand what you’ve been through, and we look at who you are today, and we want to help foster what you want for tomorrow.” In Tracey’s experience, the biggest challenge to participants comes internally, but that’s where the work needs to start. “Without really dealing with the internal barriers, they’re missing out on great lessons and great insight on how to really inform those external barriers, policies, and programs and really being that true advocate for themselves and for others.”

What you Can Do

In our interview, Tracey emphasized that while the barriers women face will likely always be there, we can all do things to help create change. She recommends, first and foremost, knowing the facts about rates of incarceration and recidivism and the barriers justice-involved people face in your community. Once you have knowledge about the issues, you can act to help. If you’re a business owner, consider giving justice-involved individuals a chance to share their stories before turning them away as a candidate. If you’re of voting age, vote to “ban the box” on job applications so that justice-involved individuals can succeed in the application process and earn an interview, rather than being eliminated from the applicant pool immediately. If you’re able, donate to organizations that help justice-involved women overcome the barriers they face. We can all make a difference, and it starts with just one action.

Written by Grace Statz, Marketing & Communications Intern


0 Comments: View or leave one of your own!

Leave a Reply