Pelipost was founded on a second chance. Our story is just one example of success after incarceration. We believe that every person has dignity and potential. But approximately 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record, which limits their access to education, jobs, housing, and other things they need to reach that potential. This April, we’re joining our friends at Prison Fellowship to celebrate Second Chance Month and and unlock brighter futures for people with a criminal record. We sat down with Pelipost’s Co-Founder and COO, Becky Calderon, to hear about her Second Chance after incarceration, and the journey it took to get there.
Tell us how your Second Chance story started.
In my case, it was my actual incarceration that led to my second chance experience. I consider myself extremely blessed, extremely lucky that I had this opportunity that so many people don’t have.
But was it in my plan? No, but I knew that my son had thought about creating an app to send photos, and I was driving him crazy wanting pictures. I got to a point where I felt like he wasn’t listening to the importance of what it means to me. And I’d say, “I really need to see some pictures. I need to receive them.” And then him finding it hard to send them and then him finally saying, “you know what, there’s a need for this because it’s taking me too much hassle to send my mom pictures.” So, it was a blessing. But my incarceration actually created my second chance.
Did you feel like you were prepared to reenter society when you were released? Did you face obstacles to getting a job, finding a place to live? Did you have a support system of people who were there for you?
I had no idea of what I was gonna do, but the one thing that I did know was that I had family. That in itself is a blessing- I had family that still believed in me. They knew I had made a mistake and still believed that I could come out and be productive in some way. So in that way, I was winning already.
When you’re inside, you look around and you see people planning on getting out that have no idea where they’re gonna go. No idea where they’re gonna spend their first night. Trying to find a shelter to go to. So I was already ahead of the game. I knew who was going to be picking me up. I knew my parents had a room for me. I had a head start, which is huge. Huge because without, I can’t imagine how scary that would have been, for so many others not knowing. You’re almost scared to be free. Because on the inside, you know where you’re sleeping, you know where you’re eating. Then you get out, and you have no idea. I couldn’t imagine that.
Did you feel the pressure of stigma after your release?
I think that the hardest critic was myself. I was coming home to my parents. My dad was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s. And again, I don’t wanna say that was lucky, but it was luck that I came out at the perfect time where he needed me.
So I didn’t have to turn right around and go look for a job. Family- that was my foundation. Being able to go home and help my mom take care of my dad saved me. It felt almost like a relief to me because I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew I had a skill. I knew I had management experience. I knew I was educated. But I felt that I lost all my credibility. And I still feel that in ways. All of a sudden I was at the top of my career, and I went so far down.I knew I would have to demonstrate and prove myself again. And I didn’t know if I had that in me. I did not know if I could do that again. That was very scary because I could only imagine if I failed, what that failing could do to me.
Would you say that your family has been the key to unlocking that second chance for you?
Absolutely. 100%. And I’ll tell you why. The fact that my one and only son knew that his mom had made a mistake, but stood firm in his support. I almost had to prove to him and say “Thank you for believing in me. I’m gonna come out and show you I can do this. I’m going to fix things.” He could have easily drifted away. He was out of college and he could have just separated himself, but he chose not to. He chose to show me support. That was huge. My mom was a little different. She would write all the time, but she said, “I will never come visit you.” She was very strict, but I knew I had her support and my dad’s. When I would call home, he would just express how excited he would be that I was coming home soon.
Family for me was the number one motivator. It’s what kept me trying- the word is trying because if you don’t try, there’s no sense in anything. And it’s really very easy to feel overwhelmed at what you have in front of you. The mountain that you have to climb to try and prove yourself to try and say, “I’m worthy of a second chance. I’m ready for someone to give me a try again. Yes, I made a mistake, but I can still do something productive.” You’re more than that mistake. More than your worst moment.
There’s a little part of me that feels a little guilty and I shouldn’t, but I do because I consider myself so blessed that I got my second chance after incarceration. The guilt comes from knowing that many people that don’t have that. A second chance is the hardest thing to believe in. It’s the hardest thing to do if you’re starting from scratch. I took advantage of my second chance. Because I had a wonderful opportunity in my family and I knew I couldn’t mess this up. I could have, but I didn’t.
My heart hurts for people that have to start with nothing. But I love seeing things like Prison Fellowship and the advocacy groups that are fighting with you to give you that second chance after incarceration, to find you people that can help. Because you need help- everyone needs help. You can’t do it alone. 99.9% of failing is because you’re alone. Because I wasn’t alone, I was blessed. And I just say to people that are alone, to please look towards the advocacy groups that are out there because they are there with open arms, open hearts, willing to help. Find support, because being alone makes it too easy to give up. All you have to do is try.
Millions of people in America have a criminal record. Many are ready to own their mistakes, learn from the past, and become who they’re meant to be. But it’s harder than it should be. At every step of the journey—by unjust laws and daily hurdles—they’re reminded of who they were. Learn more about Second Chance month and how you can take action to #bethekey to unlocking second chances for Americans with a criminal record here.