Nicole Wiesen just wanted to borrow some jewelry. Her friend was out of town, but she graciously offered to lend Nicole some pieces and invited her to pick up what she needed. Nicole went to her friend’s house and found the jewelry right where she was told it would be. Her friend’s husband checked the security cameras in the house and saw someone taking the jewelry—not knowing his wife had invited Nicole over. Immediately, he called the police. It was a simple misunderstanding that should have cleared up with one phone call, but instead, Nicole was arrested. Because she had contact with the police, Nicole had violated the terms of her probation and was sent back to jail for 17 months.
Nicole is a 47-year-old mother in Atlanta, Georgia. She says her 10-year-old son, Alex, is the “center of her world.” Together, they cook, play video games, and ride scooters around the neighborhood. Alex’s father only lives two blocks away, which has caused some co-parenting difficulties—especially since Nicole lost some of her custody rights due to her criminal record.
Nicole has been on and off probation since a theft charge in 2010. Since then, she’s struggled to succeed. Because of probation, she’s had difficulty finding fulfilling employment. Nicole has a social work degree, but laws prohibit her from practicing until she’s off of probation for three years. Every time she leaves the house, Nicole feels like she’s wearing a “scarlet Department of Corrections letter’ on her back, since the probation trap could send her back to jail at any moment—even if she doesn’t commit a new crime.
For now, Nicole finds support from her mother, her rabbi, and her friends who kept in touch with her while she was incarcerated. She’s recently found employment as the Deputy Director of RestoreHER US.America, an advocacy reentry organization led by and for justice-involved women of color. And she’s found new confidence in herself, reminding herself that despite her past mistakes, she is good enough and she is worthy.