The WIRE is an all-volunteer non-profit organization. The WIRE would like to thank all of our dedicated & passionate volunteers who work tirelessly on a daily basis to support The WIRE. Our volunteer team is committed to carrying out the day-to-day activities on behalf of The WIRE, in addition fulfilling all of their personal commitments, work obligations, and other obligations. The WIRE is extremely grateful for all of your love and support.
(Names listed in alphabetical order)
Shirley Boykins, Founding Member
Charnal Chaney, Event Planner
Charnal Chaney is a Psychology student at Prince George’s County Community College. Charnal’s mother was incarcerated for 18 years. During that time, Charnal grew up in Ward 8 where she had to overcome many challenges. Charnal has co-facilitated parenting workshops with her mother at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) in Jessup, MD, assisting women who are preparing for release with setting realistic family reunification goals.
Charnal works closely with The WIRE assisting children with incarcerated parents achieve their goals and coordinating events. Charnal cites stigma as the most challenging aspect of her mother’s incarceration. Recently, Charnal set out to facilitate the Junior Girl Scout Troop #44001 to serve Washington, DC-area girls between the ages of 9 to 11 years old whose mothers are incarcerated or are under court-ordered supervision. The purpose of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) is to help decrease the negative impact of parental incarceration on girls who have incarcerated mothers by helping mothers and daughters strengthen their relationships and build pro-social life skills.
Katrina Gaynor, Founding Member
Katrina Gaynor a native Washingtonian who grew up in SE Washington, DC. She was 29 years old when she became incarcerated. She had 4 children whose ages ranged from 4 to 12 years old. Ultimately, Katrina served a total of 10 years 5 months in federal prison for a violent crime. When she returned home to her 4 children, they were already young adults. Luckily for Katrina, while serving time she had family support. She understands that she was fortunate because a lot of women in prison do not have support. In Katrina’s own words, “The family that I took for granted became my motivation to return to society a new person.” She is inspired to support those who don’t have families. Katrina is passionate about sharing the challenges of family reunification.
In Katrina’s own words, “My goal is to listen to the children that we have left behind and talk to the parents who are serving time. We must let the children know that their mothers who are in prison love them despite the choices they made. And for the mothers in prison I want them to know that they have a hell-of-a-fight when they return home. It is imperative that they heal mind, body, and spirit and they prepare for reentry. My goal is to bring my ideas to The WIRE to ensure that our experiences were not in vain. Katrina is currently employed as a Dietary Assistant and she longs to provide holistic healing support to children with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated mothers.”
Nicki Grear-El, Founding Member (Picture forthcoming)
Nicki Grear-El is a Texas native who, after several years of alcohol and drug addiction, successfully accumulated 10+ years of clean time. One of Nicki’s greatest accomplishments is becoming a productive member of society. Nicki has developed the courage to face her past head on. Her ability to engage in self-reflection has enabled her to move from a path of self-destruction to one of self-love and fulfillment. Nicki’s expertise includes: preparing fun and healthy meals, styling natural hair care and home decorating. Nicki knows first-hand the importance of healthy self-esteem for women in recovery.
Sakenia Hammond, Founding Member (Picture forthcoming)
Sakenia Hammond became incarcerated at the age of 18. She remained incarcerated for 16 years. She was 34 years old when she returned to society. While incarcerated, Sakenia obtained her GED, and enrolled in college. When she was released in 2016, Sakenia completed the Aspire Entrepreneurship Program. She obtained her business licence and is currently the owner of “Inner Beauty Salon.”
Sakenia is committed to The WIRE’s mission because she wants to use her lived experience to assist children with incarcerated parents as they set out to navigate life and become productive, healthy adults. Sakenia is a spokesperson for formerly incarcerated women and girls and she has consulted with the Council for Court Excellence (CCE) on their recent report, Beyond Second Chances: Returning Citizens’ Reentry Struggles and Successes in the District of Columbia (December 2016).
Gina Miller, Founding Member
Gina Miller served a total of eight years in federal prison. She returned to the community eight years ago. She is currently employed as a Dietitian assistant. Gina dreams of one day owning her own cleaning company, and investing in the vending enterprise.
In her own words, “The work of The WIRE is of critical importance because incarcerated women desperately need resources, mentors, educators and counselors who are empathetic, strong women who share their lived experience. I have been where these women are. They need some one that will keep it totally real with them who understands that despite the challenges of reentry failure is not an option. Through the WIRE, I hope to play a role in improving access to visitation for the children with incarcerated mothers. I want to help transport them to the prisons so that women in prison and their children can embrace one another with the love and care that they both need to survive in society. Even though visits are just a moment in time, they provide an opportunity for families impacted by incarceration to get familiar with one another, share life goals and dream together. Even though prison walls and fences separate mothers from their children it is the dream that love will keep them connected that I want to help foster.”
Tanisha Murden, Program Director
Tanisha Murden is a motivational speaker, mentor and life coach who can motivate and inspire other men, women and children who are struggling through traumatic expeirences. Born and raised in Washington DC, throughout her life Tanisha has faced many tragedies. As a result, she made a series of bad decisions that led to her incarceration. Prior to incarceration, Tanisha was a young woman who was addicted to the “The Street Life”. She experienced various forms of abuse until her life took a turn for the worse. While incarcerated, Tanisha participated in many programs. Once she was released, she obtained her GED, enrolled in the University of the District of Columbia and began to rebuild her life. In her own words, “being incarcerated was an eye opening experience” that allowed her to gain the necessary tools’ to become a productive member of society.
As one of the founding members of The WIRE, Tanisha is a driving force that keeps the organization alive. She understands that women need social support, and mentoring in order to successfully navigate the reentry process. Since her release, Tanisha has held several jobs. In addition to her work with The WIRE, Tanisha is the Founder of Unity & Faith LLC. Tanisha has spoken at Jessup Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW), the Secure Female Facility (SFF) Hazelton, as well as various colleges and universities throughout the DMV area. In January 2017, Tanisha was appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to serve on the Commission on Re-entry and Returning Citizen Affairs. She was appointed by her peers on the commission to serve as the Co-Chairman.
Daa’iyah Pasha, Founding Member (Picture forthcoming)
Daa’iyah Pasha is a native Washingtonian who has lived a life of crime and incarceration. Throughout her lifetime, she has spent 2 – 2 ½ years in jails and prison systems across the country. She has completed approximately 2 ½ years in college and works with returning citizens and adjudicated youth in DC.
Daa’iyah is currently working as a Family Engagement Specialist with the non-profit organization “Good Projects” under DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitative Service’s Credible Messenger Initiative, where she assists adjudicated youth and their families as they navigate everyday life situations. In addition, she helps these families re-think and re-learn skills to improve relationships within the family and the community. Daa’iyah enjoys assisting returning women because she knows first-hand the need for support in coping with the psycho-social adjustment as well as the family re-unification process.
Saundra Sanders, Substance Abuse Specialist
Saundra Sanders is a 54-year-old native Washingtonian. Saundra is a returning citizen who spent a total of 20 years cycling in-and-out of the judicial system. Saundra’s last incarceration ended on July 5, 2005. She was released from parole supervision in February 2008. Currently, Saundra has spent 12.5 years in recovery. She has one adult son, who has also spent time in the judicial system.
Understanding the importance of leading by example, Saundra decided to turn her life around while serving her final prison term. Saundra has worked with Community of Hope Health Services for two years. She has dedicated her life to giving back to those that share her lived experience.
Saundra is an active member of several self-help empowerment networks, including Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, HOPE Foundation Reentry Network, and the Women’s Empowerment Network (WEN).
Carolyn Simpkins, Founding Member
Carolyn Simpkins is the mother of two adult daughters who are both college graduates. She is currently a manager at Giant Grocery store where she has been employed for over a decade. Growing up, Carolyn had a desire to “live life in the fast lane.” Her lifestyle led her to prison, where she spent 16 years of her life. While incarcerated, Carolyn, a devoted mom who believes in the value of hard work, worked consistently in the Unicor Industries establishing work ethic. She learned computer skills and upon release, Carolyn was able to obtain employment.
Carolyn has been home for over a decade and she admits that life has been good to her. She has a community of family and friends who make up her strong support system. Recently married, Ms. Simpkins stated, “It feels good living an honest life. I am a part of The WIRE because I failed at reentry before. I failed because I refused to let people help me.” Carolyn wants other women to know that like her, they too can succeed at reintegration despite the challenges they will face. ‘And, sometimes you might have to let someone help you.’
Shirl Stephens, Founding Member
Shirl Stephens is a 52-year-old Washingtonian. She served multiple prison terms while on parole when she was suffering from a dual diagnosis. She was released the last time in 2008.
Since then she has been in recovery and she has been able to break the cycle of recidivism. Shirl has been employed with the DC Department of Transportation as a Safety Technician. She has also served as a Credible Messenger for CSOSA. She is a certified peer specialist and one of the district’s most beloved outreach workers. She is most passionate about being an example to other returning women and motivating homeless women who are suffering with dual diagnosis.
While volunteering with The WIRE, Shirl has assisted many women with the transition back into society after release. She is most proud when she is able visit the women at Fairview Halfway House. She enjoys sharing her testimony and offering successful reintegration strategies.
Lashonia Thompson-El, Executive Director
Lashonia Thompson-El is the author of Through the WIRE: My Search for Redemption. It is a timely book about youth violence, trauma and incarceration from the eyes of a girl born and raised in SE, DC. At the age of 19, Lashonia went to prison where she would remain for 18.5 years. She set out to rehabilitate herself and atone for her past mistakes to the best of her ability. She received her GED, began to pursue a college degree, and she helped develop and facilitate many classes for other incarcerated women.
In December 2011 Lashonia was released on parole. In 2013 she was hired as the Female Reentry Coordinator for the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA). As an advocate for gender responsive reentry strategies and criminal justice reform in the District of Columbia, Lashonia has had the opportunity to speak publicly about the impact of mass incarceration on women and children. She speaks candidly about the consequences of youth violence and the challenges women face during the reintegration process as well as the importance of family reunification. Lashonia currently works for the DC Office of Attorney General (OAG), where she serves as the co-chief of the Violence Reduction unit. She is trained in violence interruption and reduction strategies and restorative justice. She helps to oversee CURE the Streets, an OAG gun violence prevention program.
In May of 2016, Lashonia completed her undergraduate degree in Human Relations at Trinity Washington University.
Lashonia is a 2017 Just Leadership Fellow and one of the founding members of The National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. Her passion is gender-responsive criminal justice reform, providing wrap around support services to children with incarcerated mothers and working with at-risk girls to disrupt the pipelines to incarceration.
Cheleta Tuckson, Youth Specialist (Picture forthcoming)
Cheleta Tuckson was born and raised in Washington D.C. She is 33 years old. At the age of 18, Cheleta was incarcerated for a violent crime as a first time offender and sentenced to serve 8 years in prison. Upon release, Cheleta served 5 years of probation under the Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA). Since Cheleta’s release, she has successfully completed her probation period with a sealed record for a second chance.
Cheleta has taken courses at Trinity Washington University with a focus on Early Childhood Education. She is currently a career employer at the U.S. Postal Service, and is currently in the process of becoming a ‘Raw and Uncut’ motivational speaker for troubled incarcerated youth.
Cheleta is one of the founding members of The WIRE and her passion is to provide social support and life skills training to women in prison who are dealing with anger issues as a result of trauma. Cheleta understands this demographic all too well because, in her own words: “I was very rebellious during my incarceration. During my 8 years in prison, I spent at least six years in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) AKA solitary confinement. I am evidence that anyone can change when they decide to change.”
Diane Twyman, Founding Member
Diane Twyman is a 64-year-old woman who spent 19 years in prison. She was released in 2001. She is resilient and passionate about supporting women who share her plight. While incarcerated, Diane became known as “Ma Twyman,” raising young girls to become strong women. Many of the Women of The WIRE served time alongside Diane.
As one of the founding members of The WIRE, Diane is deeply concerned about children with incarcerated mothers and aging prisoners. After being released on parole, Diane worked with individuals suffering from mental illness. Diane is resourceful and energetic, and she remains a leading advocate for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls.
Petrina Williams, MSW, LGSW, CAC II, Licensed Social Worker
Petrina Williams is a native Washingtonian, though she was raised in Georgia. Convicted of a non-violent narcotics-related crime when she was three months pregnant, Petrina served 2.5 years in prison. Since her release in 2007, Petrina has obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Clinical Mental Health Care, from University of Maryland, University College. She is licensed as a Level II Addictions Counselor and graduated from the National Catholic School of Social Services at Catholic University with a Master’s Degree in Social Work in April 2017.
Petrina currently serves as the Addictions Counselor for Christ House, where she provides oversight and management of all addiction services within the Acute Medical facility and the Kairos residential program. Petrina is passionate about providing social and clinical support to formerly incarcerated women recovering from co-occurring disorders by intervening in the cycle of addiction while helping families heal, reunify and remain intact.
Portia N. Williams
Portia is a 35 year old Washingtonian who has lived in various areas throughout the DMV but she considers herself an “uptown girl” for sure. At the age of 28, Portia went to prison. She was a first-time offender. Although that was one of the most terrifying experience in her life Portia utilized her time wisely. She completed multiple programs including: Cosmetology, Nail Technician, Women’s Empowerment, Domestic Violence, and Literacy Programs. Once Portia was released from Maryland Correctional Institution for Women she continued to develop herself completing a life skills program and a work release program. During her incarceration Portia discovered her purpose. Portia learned that she had a passion and an ability to mentor the younger women in the prison. She was a trusted confidant and offered guidance and advice to many young women who were struggling with the traumatic experience of incarceration. After serving 2 years 8 ½ months Portia was released October 31,2017. She was grateful to be returned to her two children, family and friends. Portia was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, a job as a Credible Messenger InnerCity CDC. Through this community-based organization Portia began mentoring girls at the deepest end of the justice system. The girls who were committed to the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) at high risk of causing harm or being victims of harm in society. Portia committed four years to helping justice-involved youth change their thinking and behavior. Portia currently works at Hillcrest Children and Family Center. Her work is not done. Portia is in the process of starting her own organization “Society of a Divine Sisterhood.” This will be an organization that will provide mentoring, life skills training and pro-social activities to youth between the ages of 13-24. Many young girls in DC face serious life challenges including abandonment, abuse, domestic violence, molestation, self-esteem, sex trafficking, and more. Portia is all about uniting women and she believes strongly that with support, love and consistency girls can build resilience to trauma. Her motto is,“When you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”