CHOWCHILLA -- They've robbed. They've stolen. They've murdered.
But despite their past crimes, nearly 100 women gathered in a prison gym Wednesday to hear how they can help victims of serious crimes. Some wanted to know how they could help the very people they hurt.
The inmates are part of a club at Valley State Prison for Women that focuses on raising money for charitable groups and, as they describe it, repay their debt to society. One of the women in the club, called the Long Termers Organization, sent a three-page letter in August to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board -- a state agency that distributes about $100 million a year in funds to crime victims in need of health care, therapy or other services as a result of the crimes committed against them. The inmate, Crystal Potter, wanted to know whether the board would be willing to let her club know how they could help.
"We may never gain the trust or the forgiveness of our victims, but to do now what we should have been doing from the very beginning in providing community services would teach us further the morals and values so necessary as a productive member of society," Potter wrote.
Julie Nauman, the compensation board's executive officer, said she felt compelled to accept Potter's invitation. She said it was the first time that an inmate had asked the agency to make a presentation at a prison. Despite the fact that Nauman deals mostly with victims, she said she was eager to talk to the inmates. "They're showing me that they care and are trying to make a difference, and that's what we do every day."Quantcast
The 120-member Long Termers Organization has been around for about nine years, Potter said in an interview. She said the group has monthly meetings and has raised more than $150,000 over the years for charities such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Hinds Hospice of Fresno. Potter said that she was recently looking through a book of nonprofit organizations when she realized the obvious: that her club should raise money for victims groups. So she sent off her letter.
On Wednesday, Nauman told inmates about how the compensation board works and fielded questions from her audience. Potter said she hopes the Long Termers Organization will start to raise money for the compensation board soon.
Potter, 55 and an Air Force veteran, said she is in the 18th year of a 5 years-to-life sentence for the second-degree murder of her husband in Riverside. She said that even though she feels good about raising money for charities, she knows it won't make up for the crimes that she and other inmates have committed.