"I was terrified I'm going back to prison. The only thing that was going to keep me from these kids now was going back to jail. The only thing that was going to keep me going back to jail is because I didn’t pay my LFOs. We’ve already done the stumbles, the falls. I took that money and paid off those fines. . . .  It just felt like the right thing to do. It just felt like it would be easier to stay on my right path.
But my children’s lives were altered because of the choice I made to keep me out of jail. . . .  I still believe I did the right thing.

When Michelle was getting back on her feet, recovering from a drug addiction as well as a conviction and sentence for delivery of a controlled substance, her children wanted to live with her again. She felt ready but had only a one-bedroom apartment, no beds, no pillows, no car, no job, and no driver's license. A generous member of her mother's church donated $5,000 to Michelle so she could buy a car. Instead, Michelle used the money to pay off her LFOs out of fear that she would be arrested. The decision made her teenage sons' lives more difficult but she stands by her decision. Today, she is a counselor. She is confident that if she had not paid off her fines, she and her family would still be one paycheck away from homelessness. 

"Zoey is my miracle and saving grace," says Michelle about her youngest child, Zoey. "I got an opportunity to do this different with her the whole way through and I’m committed to that. For me to think of me losing her or her not having a strong independent capable woman to show her how to do it consumes me with fear."