Rehearsing Possibilities

Lauren and Michelle at Inside Out

Alumni Advocate Lauren Johnson explains what our program name means to her. Help Conspire continue its classes at the Travis County Correctional Complex by donating here. Doing the work that she does with Conspire, Kat often talks about rehearsing possibilities. Initially it felt a little silly and dorky however, Kat manages to show people the real life applications. During the Inside Out workshops that Conspire held there would be a theme each month. Just before the holidays, we explored our perceptions of what the upcoming events would bring in each of our lives. Using the bodies of people in our group, we would arrange people in a pose throughout the room to illustrate what a scene from our holiday typically looked like. We let everyone else in the room observe and comment on what they saw and then we explained our scene. After both groups did that, we then did … Continue reading


Food Stamps for Drug Felons

Lone Star Accepted_color

In previous posts titled “Visions” and “The New Jim Crow”, I spoke a little about some of the things that inspired me into action. I thought that it was time to follow that up with an update! For those of you just tuning in let me bring you up to speed. In 1996, welfare reform was a great political platform. A bill passed through the Senate permanently banning anyone with a felony drug conviction from ever receiving benefits from the food stamp program. While it is easy to see the good intentions behind this law, it is an extremely flawed policy. In fact, 39 out of 50 states have opted out of it but Texas has not. Texas has the 2nd highest rate of incarceration in the world and a large percentage of those who have records are in some way drug related. People have the capacity for change. Why … Continue reading

Hope v. Reality


Just a few weeks before the news lit up with stories of Whitney Houston’s life and death, I had read in a letter from someone that an acquaintance of ours had died of a heroin overdose. While my mind instantly pulled out the “ that can’t be, someone just saw him a few days/weeks/months ago” denial speech. I knew logically that it wasn’t far fetched. No surprise here. He is not the first, and unfortunately unlikely to be the last. I can think of at least four funerals off the top of my head that I have been to which were celebrating lives that were taken way too soon, and in some way drug related. While I have never heard of an incident of someone overdosing on methamphetamine, I do know people who have gotten shot because of someone using it. Sleep deprivation and chemical cocktails make for unhappy endings. … Continue reading

Love and Money

Money in a Heart

Another holiday season has come and gone. This year I had the chance to notice something, and not for the first time. I see how we attach our own value to money, belongings and gifts both on the receiving and giving ends. It was easier to see and call out as ridiculous in my roommate, of course but that made me look in the mirror and reevaluate. My roommate was raised by parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose religion requires that they not celebrate Birthdays, Christmas, etc. So my friend never had the Christmas experience that so many of us grew up with and does not observe those practices as an adult. She admittedly tries to make up for what she feels she missed out on. She buys an outrageous amount of presents for her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews etc. Her sister does the same thing. She has gone … Continue reading

Sexual Abuse and Trauma


Trigger Warning – this post discusses childhood sexual abuse and rape. Conspire alum Lauren Johnson continues her series on incarceration, addiction, criminal justice and life in general. Recently I had the opportunity to tag along with Kat to an “Inner View” with KOOP personality Abigail Mahnke. Kat did a fabulous job talking about her craft, (pun intended) and I thought going in that I was prepared for the usual questions that I am asked about Conspire. For the most part that was true although there was a small section that I stumbled around in and couldn’t think clearly enough to articulate what I would have wanted to say. All of that said, Abigail asked me an unexpected question that I didn’t stumble with. I do, however, think that it is a question that I would like to explore a little more here. We were discussing how many of the women … Continue reading