Advocating From Experience
“Something Different and Extraordinary”
In December, Stand in the Gap’s Program Director for Women in Transition, Rhonda Bear, was appointed to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ Board of Directors by Governor Stitt. This makes Rhonda the only former inmate serving on the Board and positions her to continue her advocacy for incarcerated people and their families.
20 years ago, Rhonda served 19 months in prison. While she was incarcerated, Rhonda took advantage of classes that were available, formed lifelong friendships, received spiritual support from programs like Kairos, and took the initial steps that led her to a life of true freedom. She has since been reunited with her children, founded a business and a non-profit to support women post-incarceration, returned to prison as a volunteer, and created hundreds of Stand in the Gap small groups like the one that changed her life.
For Rhonda, going to prison allowed her to stop running from addictions and unsafe relationships. She used the opportunity to change. It was the prayers and mentorship of her Stand in the Gap small group (after she was released) that equipped her for enduring well-being and freedom.
Rhonda is passionate about empowering women to be healthy and safe mothers to their children. She not only advocates for family restoration, but also equips mothers in especially practical ways. For example, she opened her coffeehouse, She Brews, to provide work experience and reliable income to women whose criminal records make it difficult to get a job. She Brews now has multiple locations in Claremore and Tulsa. After their jobs at She Brews, women have gone on to a variety of careers and fields.
In her new role on the DOC Board of Directors, Rhonda hopes “to bring a perspective to the Board that they have never had before.” Rhonda adds, “but my main reason for wanting to be on the Board of Directors is because I want to give women and men in prison hope that says this does not have to define your life. People can rise above felony convictions and do something different and extraordinary with their lives.”
The Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing budgets, systems, and policy and recommending/overseeing any necessary changes. Rhonda has great respect for the Board and says, “I look forward to learning much and enlightening much. It’s a great opportunity to learn and hopefully be a change maker.”