The money will be used to help Jennifer and her son put the past behind them and start anew. Here is a link to a letter that was posted back in May 2017, Mothers Day, on a Prison Fellowship Blog https://www.prisonfell...
Thank you for the first 24 hours of donations and encouragement! Your support is more than appreciated and is rebuilding a life of recovery founded by God.
My name is Jennifer Bernard, I am 33 years old and currently serving a 58 month sentence under Minnesota Shakopee Women's State Prison . I am writing to request your financial support to reopen and appeal my case, pay legal fees and money to restart our lives as we have lost everything. You are already wondering why keep reading and why help her, but I am begging you to listen to my story...
This is the first time I have ever been in this kind of trouble so I didn't know what I was doing when it came to the courts and I was pushed around pretty easily. It started with the bail bondsman who didn't seem quite right, but helped me bail out of jail for next to nothing. When we met he told me, "Well don't you worry honey I have the perfect lawyer for you!" The bondsman got his lawyer on the phone right there in the waiting room of the county jail and said, "Hey D***** I got a good one for you!" The lawyer on the phone said he would meet me in the next couple of days and made things sound pretty smooth. Everything about the situation felt uncomfortable, the charges, the bail bondsman, the lawyer, everything was starting to build a really horrible picture. Of course I felt compelled to get another opinion and in the meantime I called a few other lawyers who came at me with offers around $9,000-$10,000 and said this is something we will need to go to trial for. Being a single mom I thought, what am I going to do and how could I have been so stupid while I was intoxicated?
I decided to meet with the lawyer I first talked to because he was making it so easy for me, he came right to me. He showed up in a flashy car, flashy suit, with all the flashy walk and talk. I actually looked at hiring him because he came at me with a good deal, claiming to be a trial lawyer for only 1/4 of the price that the other trial lawyers were quoting me. That should have been the only red flag that I needed, but being a heartbroken beaten down single mom with no other options I preceded with him.
Things never seemed right with my lawyer; I was always uncomfortable around him and felt pressured. He was always making subtle sexual comments and gestures towards me, but still owing him payments and my life in his hands I would ignore them, smile and keep trying to move forward . When I first retained him he promised to be a trial lawyer, it then quickly turned into a different story. He pressured and convinced me we had to proceed with a straight guilty plea to the "right" judge and a push for a downward departure from prison with 20 years felony probation. I didn't really understand, but had no choice and no money for a different lawyer so I said "ok". I would be pleading guilty to a first degree burglary charge/assault for a small fight I got in with the boyfriend I had at the time child's mother, in her house.
These charges just didn't fit the situation! This all seemed so confusing because I did not steal or burglarize anything, and I had been invited over to the house? We had all been drinking that day and emotions were high from years of him playing games between both of us women and things quickly escalated into a fight with his child's mom throwing the first punch . I am not trying to down play the situation, but It was a very small fight, broke up quickly, there was no injuries and really didn't seem like a big deal until the police came to my friend's house to arrest me and I woke up the next day in jail with these severe charges. Never in my life did I think I would be pleading guilty to a home invasion charge for 58 months prison time ...
Looking back now I wish I would have conquered my battle with alcoholism that developed from my insecurities as a woman from years of toxic relationships with abusive men and this would have never happened. My son would still be living with me and I would not have this "felon" label to carry with us for the rest of my life. Years of abusive relationships that I allowed would cause me to drink myself into emotional darkness. This made it easy to be led by my sleazy lawyer who just wanted to get things over with quick and cheap. He never cared about me or my son's future.
Now being in prison and consulting a few appeal lawyers who care, I have found out it should have never even been a felony conviction and I should have went to trial. I was misrepresented and there should have been negotiating in the beginning and this prison sentence would have never happened. I feel so deceived and hurt, so responsible ultimately for my son who has suffered the most. The poor choice I made that night when I went over to her house was solely made from an intoxicated state of mind, sober I would have never went there.
Since I have been in prison things have changed inside of me in so many incredible ways. I found God and rediscovered who I am supposed to be through Jesus Christ. I have been baptized through Westwood Ministries and have committed my whole life to follow Jesus Christ. I am a completely changed woman, so part of prison has been a blessing in disguise like bringing me to the lnnerChange Freedom Initiative Program. IFI is a 12 month intense Christian faith based change program and the only women's program like it in the country. I have worked incredibly hard and healed from my traumatic past and my future is full of hope. If you're still reading I'd like to share my speech I read at my IFI graduation back in June 23rd, 2016.
"LET GO, LET GOD..
As a young girl I was gifted in school which helped me feel good about myself and I excelled in all education standards, but I grew up as an ugly duckling ...however I was blessed with parents who worked very hard to help change my looks, because I had an under bite and I believe they could see all my internal struggles. Braces, headgear, retainers, top-jaw retainer, you name it, I had it. From the 4th grade till almost 17 years old I wore braces and devices. My under bite and awkward looks caused verbal scars, bullying, and physical fights. Over the years words cannot describe the insecurities that established deep within me.
When I was 15 years old I had jaw surgery over my Christmas break and my jaw was wired shut for two weeks. I went back to school after break and my whole world had changed, practically overnight...everyone looked at me and treated me differently. I had the outward beauty I desired and the instant attention was overwhelming. I had never healed from the childhood insults, so my outer confidence didn't match my inward weakness and this soon created a false confidence, but regardless I now had brains and beauty, people finally wanted me, so I was off and running.
I started using drugs and hanging around all the wrong people that only liked me for what I looked like, not who I was. I began to live my life for everyone else and soon allowed my shaky identity to become the identity of my boyfriends. Living life in this fast lane was full of abuse and soon the physical, verbal, and mental abuse I allowed from my boyfriends was getting so toxic that my self-control completely slipped away. I never had the strength to leave because as soon as I would try they would tell me I wasn't good enough or pretty enough for someone else, my wounds from childhood would surface, I would believe these lies and resorted to numbing the pain with alcohol. ..
For over 16 years now I was looking for love in all the wrong places, I never thought to look UP. I now just turned 32 years old; this is my first and last time in prison. I have allowed men and alcohol to direct my life.
When I first came into the lnnerChange Freedom Initiative Program I didn't want to look at myself because I had made such a huge mess of my life and felt like I failed everyone, especially my son. I was heartbroken and didn't know who I was anymore with a dark hole inside my heart that I didn't understand. I also didn't want to admit people could influence me so much ...I didn't want to see myself like this; I had always had the heart and mind of a leader.
Psalm 46: 10 "Be still and know that I am God" is a life verse that has followed me from the day I walked into the pod door of IFI. "Be still, be still?" How can God tell me to be still? I am an adrenaline junkie; lover of extreme sports...peddle to the metal, throttle wide open, work hard-play harder, was my motto. Now all I have around me, literally and figuratively is brick walls, a fence, locked doors, and broken hearts. I had been running, I was hiding. I lost so much time in fear and chaos, but sometimes pains the only way that we can learn.
IFI showed me you can never fall too hard that you can't get back who you are. God showed me when you've lost where you are, it's never too late that you can't change who you are. YOU CAN LET GO! Come back from where you've been to the foot of the cross, to the feet of Jesus.
I have learned that being still and listening to God is the only way forgiving yourself and others becomes tangible and the pain subsides. I found my way to that place of stillness through IFI, prayer, and by letting go and letting God. Then God turns your ashes of destruction to beauty.
God has redeemed my life and the IFI program turned me from Victim to Student of God.
God has kept my son healthy, strong, wise, and able. He has provided me with a spiritual family while I can't be with mine. I have never felt such love from a Christian community as I have from the volunteers, teachers, and sisters in IFI this past year. It is only through the coursework in IFI that today I can finally say that I have Healthy Boundaries, a Discerning Heart, no longer take the Bait of an Offense, and no longer Search for my Significance in the world. I Celebrate Recovery and I learned that forgiveness is not just something that you do it is a state of being, that when offered brings forth the truth of who you are.
I want to thank my classmates because it is through them I have grown the most...Ilove you and I trust you. You ladies have taught me that in a Christian community we can surrender and trust, we can become transparent to each other; and light can shine through us, God can speak through us...When we become persons who transcend the limitations of our individual characters, the God who is Love can reveal himself in our midst and bind us into a Christian sisterhood.
I want to thank my son and my family for never giving up on me and never leaving my side, I love you!
Lastly, Thank you Ms. Page and Ms. Hale for being the leaders I needed in order to go forth to be the redeemed woman of God, I have been called to be, not only in my friendships, relationships, family and community, but to be the woman God called me to be a long time ago as a daughter, sister, best friend, and a Mother.
I love you my brilliant and amazing son Jordyn, 'you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.' -Philippians 4: 13'"
For all who took the time to read this, my family and I thank you with all of our hearts. We are asking for your help to pay for legal fees to go to trial for a re-sentencing in my case that I was misrepresented in to obtain freedom from incarceration/felony that never should have been and for the financial help to restart our life with housing, vehicle, furniture, etc..
My appeal case did not win at the District Court level, they acknowledged the wrong done, and that the charges did not fit, but courts do not like to be wrong and go back on a ruling. I was advised to contact the State Appeallate Courts. The Sate Appeallate Courts only take cases that will change laws/rules for the betterment of all society. My case was filed April 1st, 2018 and I am anxiously awaiting to hear if I will be granted a trial. Lawyers in power taking advantage of vulnerable adults is not legal and what is in the darkness needs to be brought to light.
I kindly thank you for all your time and consideration.
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