Having to tell her young children she was likely going to prison was one of the hardest things Brandy White has ever faced.
They were age five and 10 when she was incarcerated. Now she’s back home and she’s turned her life around, enjoying the simple things and working with the Elizabeth Fry Society.
“Your priorities change when your freedoms and luxuries go away,” the Colchester County woman said. “I don’t need to do things that cost a lot of money. I’m happy out looking for interesting rocks, and the kids love exploring the beach.”
White was working at the Holiday Inn, as a financial controller, when she gave in to temptation.
“I paid myself some extra with the intention of paying it back,” she said. “It was easy, and I wasn’t getting caught; I fell into a trap.”
She used alcohol and shopping to cope with difficulties, and she took trips.
It wasn’t until someone new arrived at her workplace and found discrepancies in financial reports.
“I didn’t have my tracks covered well and he called me out on it on a Friday,” said White. “When I left that day, I was a wreck. I knew I was being caught. I called a friend, who told me to call my mum and my lawyer.”
In June 2016, she was charged with theft over $5,000 and in February 2018 she was sentenced to a two-year federal prison term for defrauding the hotel of $198,999.47.
“I was seeing someone at the mental health clinic until I was sentenced and that gave me a lot of opportunity to work through why I did what I did,” she said. “I think my journey would have been much different without that time.
“I’d reached out to the Elizabeth Fry Society. I was very fortunate to have a strong support system of family, friends and the society. I was as prepared as I could be for incarceration.
“I was up front with my kids. If they don’t feel they have the information from me they’ll make something up, and it could be something worse.”
Her mother moved into her home so the children's routine would change as little as possible.
White found the first few weeks at the Nova Institution for Women tough. Then she connected with women who were supportive.
“Other women going through the same things help me so much,” she said. “We gave one another emotional support and information.
“Some of us would go to chapel. It was nice because drama from outside didn’t go in there.”
While at Nova, White worked with textiles and in the library, did tutoring and took a horticulture program.
In September 2018 she was able to return home, and in December she began working on a term position with the Elizabeth Fry Society.
“I love working here because I’m using my experience to help others,” she said. “I help them get into the head space to move on.
“My success is due, in a large part, to having a strong support system. A lot of people don’t have that.”
She was back to the institution for an event the Elizabeth Fry Society co-hosted this year. Although she found it a bit nerve-wracking at first, she enjoyed seeing the women again.
White spends much of her free time gardening, reading and doing yoga, and hasn’t had alcohol since January. When she’s upset she talks to family or friends or goes for a walk.
“I’ll always regret what I did,” she said. “I don’t want that to define me. I don’t want that for me or my family.
“I want people to know that just because you make a mistake it’s not the end of the road. You can come back from things and be productive and happy.”