Testimony from Pam Neely, presented at "Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline" on May 10 hosted by Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. and Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean Pierre.
My name is Pamela Neely and I got arrested for the first time when I was 17 years old. While on Christmas vacation from high school, I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My peers returned to school and I went to jail. I received my GED and upon my release from Nassau County Jail, I went straight to college. I vowed never to return back to Nassau County but on July 4, 1985, my life changed forever. My mother died. She taught me about life and nothing about death. I was 26 years ago and totally lost. I turned to drugs, hoping the pain would go away.
I got hooked on heroin and for many years, I honestly believed that I was going to die using drugs. My life was totally out of control and Nassau County Correctional Facility was my second home. I always requested to be in the DART (Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Tier). This is where I was introduced to NA (Narcotic Anonymous). Going to those meetings and the support group that Five Towns Community offered helped me make up my mind that I did deserve a better life. I decided that I couldn’t die another addict and be buried a potter's field without a tombstone. I'd had enough and when I got released, I volunteered my time and service. I ended up working for Five Towns. I got involved with committee meetings through United Way, I became a new creature. I worked hard and others saw something in me that I didn’t see. I became a case manager and visited my clients on a regular basis at the same jail that I spent most of my life in. I had become a productive member of society. I earned my respect and trust, and people believed in me. No drug could give you that feeling.
Today, I am co-founder of Second Chance Reentry, where I sit on the board of directors. I am a member of New Hour and I graduated from EMERGE. I learned so much from that training, I continue my journey in the world of advocacy. My life is awesome because I get to see women transform their lives through New Hour. All I wanted is for someone to believe in me, get to know me, and let me know that I matter. I found this and more with New Hour for Women and Children. Before I leave this earth, I would love to see the Correctional Facilities working with CBO agencies to help men and women change their lives for the better. Together, we can accomplish anything. Thank you for allowing me to speak.