Toby Dorr
Episode 26

Episode 26

Toby Dorr: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the show where we discover the silver lining in life’s most difficult stories. I’m your host, Toby Dorr. 

Our guest today is Natasha Dasher.

who is on a life mission to help returning citizens realize their true potential in themselves. As an appointed commissioner for reentry affairs, the co chair of the D. C. Democratic Caucus for returning citizens, a mother of one daughter and the grandmother of three, a fourth generation Washingtonian.

Natasha has helped many children, women and men see their true potential through business development, operational strategy and being a true community advocate. Hello there, Natasha. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

Natasha Dasher: Hi, Toby. Thank you so much for having me.

Toby Dorr: You’re welcome. I love having you here. I like to ask all my guests a question that gives us a peek into who you are.

What’s your favorite color and what does that tell us about you?

Natasha Dasher: Pink.

Toby Dorr: Pink.

Natasha Dasher: pink.

Toby Dorr: That’s my favorite color too.

Natasha Dasher: All things pink. I am It tells you that I truly A girly girl at heart. And I love things all girl, all women.

Toby Dorr: Awesome. Awesome. I love that too. Pink is my favorite color. So, um, can you tell us about a crossroads in your life that pushed you in a different direction?

Natasha Dasher: Absolutely. Um, in 2010, I was indicted, um, and arrested on, um, federal conspiracy charges, I went from not having even a speeding ticket. I had never actually been inside of a courtroom. Um, and I was facing a federal indictment facing up to 25 years in federal prison. Uh, it was a complete, as they say, paradigm shift, um, and crossroad in my life.

And, um, it pivoted me towards recognizing, um, a lot of injustices in the justice system. Um, pivoting me towards how I thought about love and, um, what you’re willing to sacrifice. for love. And it taught me about what really matters in life. Um, the things and things as we like to say in this society and what those things are.

Are they material or are they, um, things that will go on for years and legacies and

Toby Dorr: Last long after you’re gone. Yeah, that’s beautiful. You know, I can so relate to that because I also was federally indicted and sentenced to federal prison and I had never had a speeding ticket either. I was just dumbfounded at the complete turn of my life. So I think that’s beautiful that, um, it sounds like you kind of found a mission while you were incarcerated through your journey in the prison system.

And, you know, one thing I notice is most people refer to those being released from prisons as felons or formerly incarcerated. And you have this term that I just love, returning citizens, which reminds us, you know, that inmates are people and they’re human beings above all else. So tell me more about, uh, how you view the incarcerated people and the returning citizens and their value to our society.

Natasha Dasher: Um, I am a returning citizen. I was a citizen before I left and I was a citizen who had to return to a society that is not so welcoming. Um, and so the fact that I have to be, um, categorized is in itself, um, to me demeaning. Um, but it’s where we are in society. Um, it’s a part of my life purpose to help change the imagery on that.

And so I can’t say credit for the term returning citizen. Um, we have to actually credit, um, a lot of people in the district of Columbia who’ve done a lot of work before me, um, in this particular community and they termed the. Reset of the returning citizen, and so it

Toby Dorr: it.

Natasha Dasher: And so it is. And so it is. It gets a lot of debate.

It gets, um, you get some that are, of course, as we know, in this, uh, cancel culture, um, we, you know, some that are for it and it’s some that are just like, it’s so much better than a convicted felon.

Toby Dorr: I agree.

Natasha Dasher: And so, yes, I totally agree as well. And so, but again, it is just a demonstration of how we can be stigmatized, um, after even serving what the justice system determined as our consequence.

Toby Dorr: You know, and it’s kind of interesting because when we do something wrong, society tells us the penalty they want from us for that act. Once we’ve given them that penalty, there seems to be no end to it in a lot of ways. You know, you, you continually have to fight just to be on an even level. So it is a difficult journey, I think.

Natasha Dasher: Absolutely.

Toby Dorr: yeah.

Natasha Dasher: And anyone who’s done it will, will definitely agree with both of us.

Toby Dorr: yes, yes, they certainly will. And, you know, I think being incarcerated is not just difficult for the person who’s in prison, you know, especially if there’s Children involved, there’s a long lasting effect on. Uh, children whose parents are incarcerated, and you have a workshop designed to help young women comprehend, process, and manage the emotional component of being a child of an incarcerated parent.

How did this concept come about? And tell me more about your program. Uh

Natasha Dasher: So the concept came about, um, just within my own personal lived experience. Um, although my daughter was. A junior in college, um, she had never experienced anyone who, um, lived or dealt with the justice related crime or issue. And so the only thing that was relatable to her, and again, she’s a junior at the time, um, when I was, uh, indicted.

And so her understanding was limited to, um, cultural issues. So she referred to me as, like, Little Wayne. Um, so you’re going to jail like Little Wayne. And I’m like, Am I? Um, and so know, but it put a perspective that even though she was of a different age, she wasn’t young. She understood she still didn’t understand.

And so, um, and to process it because there were things that at the time she didn’t want to burden me with. But there were things that she dealt with that she didn’t understand and she didn’t know. I don’t want to put this burden, but she had people on her social media accounts who, of course, her mother’s in the news and they’re now relating things that she had to, oh, this is why you had this.

And this is why you had that. And at the, you know, and so there were things that she needed to process and so things that we didn’t, we weren’t able to process and deal with until I came home. And so, of course, 1 thing that we did collectively as a family was agree. How do we use this platform? How do we use this that anyone else who will experience this will have a better journey?

Um, and so we created the butterfly village. As known, I have some some boys who joined just within two years, and so we’ve had to change the branding to the beefly village. It still stands for the metamorphosis of the butterfly, but we call it the beefly village. And this programming is. To provide children an opportunity how to deal with social media, um, content and media, um, dealing with parents who might have, uh, cases that are in the news courses also teach them.

Yeah. These it gives them, um, it’s trained, but it’s. Usually facilitated by a trained psychologist, um, that we have on staff and they just provide, um, an open space. There’s group methods with other children that they can talk and discuss, um, what they, their experiences are, because some might have mothers and some might have fathers, um, some have had experience.

We’ve had some that have had better experiences with their parents incarcerated than they were. when they weren’t. Um, and so it’s some shared experience and lived experience. And so it’s been, um, a great successful tool that we’ve been able to provide to many different organizations.

Toby Dorr: And what are some of the, some of the key moments in that program that for you validate that this is a good thing to be doing, that this is what you should be doing? Do you have a couple of, um, circumstances you could share with us or insights that someone received from your program?

Natasha Dasher: I definitely, I mean, we did, um, enduring COVID. Um, so a lot of organizations during COVID parent children weren’t allowed to see their parents, um, during, as we know, in a lot of, uh, facilities. And so it was a strain on the other parent. Um, and they also didn’t have as many organizations because they were providing COVID relief.

And so I had, uh, we were able to connect with the office of returning citizens affairs in the district and we did their holiday drive. We had over 173 children, um, and all of their parents. Are incarcerated currently incarcerated, or just recently released and in transitional housing. And so this gave us and we did it in person.

We did a drive a drive up, they were able to come and the greatest thing that they always say is that it feels good to get from somebody who understands I get that all the time that it’s we get great, you know, not that the larger organizations. Um, don’t aren’t meaningful, the things they’re not grateful, but the fact that you give it to people that get it from someone who understands my compassion is deeper.

I’m going to talk. I’m going to engage. I’m going to say how school I didn’t. We gave away books and gift cards, things that were more useful. Um, then, as they would say, an angel tree and not nothing against

Toby Dorr: Right,

Natasha Dasher: organization, but to it’s very detached,

Toby Dorr: Yes,

Natasha Dasher: We were there. My child was there. My daughter, my family.

And so everyone that was on the incarcerated journey with me, there were mothers who talked to my mom. And so it becomes kind of a family, um,

Toby Dorr: Yeah, I think that’s beautiful. And you made a good point. These Children, you know, just like you said, your own journey with yourself and your daughter and didn’t know how to respond to questions on social media or the headlines in the newspaper. My case was plastered all over the newspaper too. And it’s pretty difficult to try to understand it yourself when you’re the person on the screen, let alone have it be your child.

And so I could see the value in this program that you truly know what their parents are going through. And you know what the kids are going through and so you can kind of bridge that gap and make them feel like you’re a person and not just an organization. So I could see that there’s great value in that.

I think one of the problems that we have is this generational cycle, you know. Someone goes to prison and then their children grow up and their role models have been in prison and they don’t know a different life and then they end up in prison and then the next generation ends up in prison. And there’s really a transformative power in breaking that generational cycle.

And I think that’s really what you’re trying to do there. So tell me about that. Generational cycle and how you see a difference in that.

Natasha Dasher: Well, we don’t deal with our hurt. We don’t deal with the situations. Um, a lot of parents choose to, I went away to college. I’m on vacation and we choose to make, um, excuses and we don’t accept and give grace to ourselves. and so by our, because of that unhealed, that unhealed trauma or issue, we then pass it along.

And unfortunately, so it starts with us. It starts about having real conversations, um, with our children, with help or whether it’s with pastoral help or, you know, a counselor or even a good close family friend that has, care of this person, care of the child while the parents are away. And so it starts at the beginning of the of the entire process.

My daughter was there with me for sentencing. Um, I was very open and honest about what happened and I took accountability for my actions. And so with that being said, she understood. And sometimes when you understand you won’t make that mistake. So if I say, hey, don’t drive the car past You know, 75 miles an hour.

It’s not necessarily just because I don’t want you to speeding ticket. The wheel might be going, you know, not too tight and etcetera. And if I explain that, then you’re most likely to say, oh, man, it’s the tire. Let me slow down.

Toby Dorr: Right the consequences you can make sure that they realize there’s consequences and I know You know when I on my own journey, I had a pretty high profile case and it was surprising to everyone around me and You know my attorneys my the judge everyone. I talked to wanted me to say I was manipulated into this.

It wasn’t my fault. And I knew that if I did that, I would be a victim forever. And I would just be stuck in that victimhood. And so I refused to let myself be a victim. And I think what you said is key. You have to take ownership of your actions and not try to disguise that you’ve been away for some other reason.

I know I had two little nieces when I was in prison who thought I was. away working on a job out of town. And it’s like, Oh, you know, I don’t think I’m sure they know by now that I was really in prison, but because they’re adults, but, you know, it’s just families don’t know how to deal with it and they want to just kind of sugarcoat it because they think that children can’t deal with the truth.

And I think what children can’t deal with is filling in the blanks because they know that they’re not being told the truth. And so they imagine things that are even worse than reality is, and that’s harder to deal with by far.

Natasha Dasher: Absolutely. And then you don’t think about your consequences, right? Because it can’t happen to me. We all think that in everything, right? It can’t happen to me. It won’t happen to me. And so I think by talking about it, you address it, you deal with it. Right. And then you’re the, it stops the cycle because, and then I don’t want it.

Cause I see firsthand what happened and I don’t want to do that. And so children will make better decisions if we just put a little trust in them.

Toby Dorr: Yeah. And, and tell them the facts and don’t be afraid to answer any question that they have, even if the answers seem harsh, you know, just be honest with them and, and it makes a difference, I think, and how they view the world and how they make decisions going forward.

Natasha Dasher: And how they view you, because, you know, as you both, you know, we were in, we experienced so many different, I experienced so many, I was at FPC Alderson. And I experienced it was, it’s a 1200, um, woman camp and all different. Circumstances and in, of course, as you know, years and sentences and the Children, but the one constant thing that as mothers, we all yearned are our Children, no matter what age they were or and you had so many because they were hiding and, um, they couldn’t see. And they could in, um, and that hurt. And so that that pain and that hurt you then, of course, take it out on on your sentence. And whereas, though, I felt I had a support, um, she wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with disappointing her because, of course, I disappointed her,

Toby Dorr: Right.

Natasha Dasher: but. I also got an opportunity for her to want to visit for her to understand.

And even when the visits became a little too hard, she understood, okay, mommy, I won’t come back. I won’t come back until this day. Um, and so we were on the journey together. Um, and so we, we, and that’s, that’s very, very important to me. for the mental health of a lot of women who are incarcerated.

Toby Dorr: I agree with that. And, you know, we were both in federal prison and I have a really good friend who was also in Alderson, but she was from the Kansas City area. Well, that’s like a, you know, a 12 hour drive to visit. And so, you know, when you get into the federal prison system, there’s not a lot of women’s federal prisons.

And oftentimes, the family has to make a trip to be able to visit, and that makes it even harder. So, uh,

Natasha Dasher: Yeah, I’m caring for them. And then now it’s a 12 hour. And like you said, so many are distancing or depending on their sentences, they’ve moved further away. We know by supposedly BOP, 500 driving miles, but we know that that’s not the case. Um, not the case in, in a lot of situations. Um, and so again, but there’s all the impact Of not only the incarcerated, but the impact that it has on the family plays a huge role in recidivism, the reunification of family coming home upon reentry, um, it starts while they’re in while we are incarcerated.

Toby Dorr: It certainly does. And you know, when you come out, I know I felt, well, I’ll just, you know, jump right back into my life and you can’t do that because life has continued without you. So you’ve got to find a different norm. And I think it would help so much if you were in contact with your children during that process.

So they at least have grown a little bit with you along the way. And it’s not like you’re just coming back to someone Transcribed You left years ago and you don’t know what’s going on in their lives. So I think that’s really important. And you know, your program purses young people to change their own lives.

But I believe that also empowers them to affect the lives of others and their communities. Can you tell me, uh, some ways that maybe that has happened where this program has empowered these young people to do something better in the world and make a difference themselves?

Natasha Dasher: Yes. I’m so proud of this this generation when it comes to advocacy work and and understanding the power of community. Um, we can loftily think that we can change the world. Um, but we can change our communities and we’ve gotten away from communities between nosy neighbors and security. Guard guard great gates and gated communities and all these things we’ve got.

We’ve lost that sense of community. Um, and the community is what usually is what changes what needs to be changed, um, or to embrace what’s good and bring that out. Um, and so if we want to see what I encourage the youth, um, to do now is to look at your community. Don’t don’t Fuss about the police. Don’t fuss about, um, or don’t be angry towards it.

Look at it as look at it as if you were a police officer and then say, what can I do? What would I like to encounter in my community as a as a good person that I’m

Toby Dorr: huh.

Natasha Dasher: I have to deal with. I have to protect and serve. And so a lot of times when you switch those roles, they’ll understand that you’re right.

Yeah, if I’m here to getting paid to protect you, but when I come around, you’re angry and you’re angry. saying, you know, there’s no need for police and there’s no need. How would you feel? And so we do these different exercises where we role play and they understand and they, we take, uh, we do desk sex on not just the district, but different communities and how one person has made a change.

They might’ve done a mailbox, um, a free public library mailbox where they turned, changed a bird house. And now all this community has books on top of books. And so. They have the power to do those things. And so I think once you encourage, um, this youth and they have way more creativity, I will say, um, if sometimes they can hone it in and use it in the right ways.

Um, but they’re create the creative levels can go far beyond anything that sometimes we can imagine because we’re still in the kind of I know I’m still in the paper. You know, I still read hardback books. I’m

Toby Dorr: Yes.

Natasha Dasher: the one that Um, you know, but their ability to see far greater than I know I could at a lot of their times in their ages.

And so that’s really what it’s about is empowering them to be a part effective part of their change of what they want to see good in their community. And once they start with their community, they’ll take what they learned there if they go away to college, or if they move to another. City estate, you pass that forward and you do the same in the next community.

Toby Dorr: I love that. And I love the program you’re talking about and I can really relate to it because I created a workbook for Women in prison, a program for women in prison, and it’s called Butterflies Unleashed. And the story of the butterfly is just so beautiful. And I love that you’re got the Butterfly Village and you’re telling the, using the same story.

Uh, and I just think it’s so powerful. When you can show people that there’s a silver lining in every darkness there, there just is. And when you find that it helps you grow and move forward. And I love that you’re telling young people to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be the person that they would like you to be.

If you were approaching them. I think that’s pretty powerful and that’s a good life skill that they can carry with them, you know, for the rest of their life. And there’s so much benefit because Most everybody in prison. There’s a few that will never get out, but generally the majority of people someday will be released.

And if we can be part of bringing out healthy people who have a future, I mean, society wins. Nobody wins if people come out that are institutionalized and, and ostracized from their families, and their children are broken and in foster care and, you know, nobody wins that way. So I really think that you have.

Tackle this problem from a different angle, and you’re kind of coming up from the underneath side of it, which is just beautiful.

Natasha Dasher: No, thank you. You know, I just try, um, it’s one of my, uh, FY 23 goals is to build a relationship with the Bureau of prisons. Um, I think they

Toby Dorr: I like that. Mm-Hmm.

Natasha Dasher: because their job, their function in the overall, um, government function is to just house, right? Um, and then they added on rehabilitation and programming. Um, but their job is not to prepare for when you’re released.

Their job is just to make sure you are good and healthy whole. I don’t want to say those words, but no, they, you know, their job is to make sure that while you’re in their custody, you are well, you are healthy, right. And, and doing what’s necessary to abide by their.

Toby Dorr: Mm-Hmm.

Natasha Dasher: But we, as we know, as inmates, um, we dream, we have these libraries, we have these books and we have these plans and then we have these friends that we meet from all over the world that have different skills and different, um, gifts and, and we all come together then they all, it’s like one big melting pot and it’s so much good information.

It’s so much good stuff. But how do we use that? And so then we come out and then we’re trapped because it’s now I have to get a job because that’s what this person says. That’s what this state says. This said this probation or this whatever rule says that I have to get a job. And so then all of those dreams, all of those notebooks, all of those journals.

Um, are, are now deflated, um, because I’m not prepared. Um,

Toby Dorr: And. It’s hard to find a job out here when you have, when you have a felony, it’s nearly impossible. I mean, perhaps you can go work at McDonald’s, but that’s not gonna be life sustaining and be able to support a family on. There’s just, there’s so much need there. I would love to help and get involved and help you with your work with meeting with the BOP.

I think that would be pretty cool.

Natasha Dasher: yeah. Um, it’s just a, just a conversation when they have a new, um, a new director. Um, and so hopefully she will be a focus for women, um, who are incarcerated. Um, that’s a huge part because I think that’s one of the, we’ve addressed the, the male population, um, and they have resources on

Toby Dorr: They do. They have lots of programs and I never saw any kind of programs in any of the prisons I was in for women. It’s just so different. And you know, I was released. I was in a high rise prison in Houston, a federal prison. And when my it was time to be released, you know, they just gave me my box of stuff and said, go out that door.

and find a taxi so you can get to the bus station to go back to Kansas City. And it’s like, where is the bus station? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Just go out there and find your way. And it’s like, how am I going to get a taxi? Where’s the taxi going to come? Well, don’t worry about it. Just go out there and find a taxi.

And I remember that being the most. Lost day of my entire incarceration was the day I walked out the door.

Natasha Dasher: And it is. And it’s and some, believe it or not, as we know, we’ve heard, you know, with people down to a day and a wake up in a week and a wake up, it is statistically a lot of people will commit another crime. Why incarcerated? Because they’re so fearful of coming out of having

Toby Dorr: know what to do out there. Right.

Natasha Dasher: Their families are no longer their support system is gone.

And so You know, that’s one of the things that I really, really want to work on as far as getting the district, um, by us not being a state, we are governed and we are under federal law at all

Toby Dorr: Oh.

Natasha Dasher: and so we, everyone is typically prosecuted through, um, the federal system

Toby Dorr: never realized that. That’s pretty impactful.

Natasha Dasher: and so, yes, and so we have women who have 90 day sentences in our FPC Alderson and so they experience the same thing that convicted felons do.

Um, and so one of the things again, until we get statehood or one of the pushes for statehood, is that we understand that then you are responsible for us, then the Bureau of Prisons is responsible for us, and as long as you’re responsible for us, all we’re asking is that you allow us to start reentry work plans and creating these plans for our residents at the time of incarceration.

When you assign me a unit team, you assign me a case manager, you assign me an entire team, I, at that point, that team should connect with the District of Columbia so we can start the reentry plan. I 

Toby Dorr: I love that. 

Natasha Dasher: 2 months or if it’s 200 months.

Toby Dorr: I

Natasha Dasher: plan should start.

Toby Dorr: I agree because you can’t just wait till 30 days before you’re being released and then say, okay, now let’s work on that. Although I, I never even saw that. So

Natasha Dasher: You never saw a team, Toby?

Toby Dorr: no, I never did. I never did. And it, it’s just, you know, it was just

Natasha Dasher: can’t say that it was helpful,

Toby Dorr: Mm

Natasha Dasher: because again, I was degreed. So, I remember going to team for the first time, and I remember the counselor saying to me, Oh, you have a bachelor’s degree.

Toby Dorr: Mm hmm.

Natasha Dasher: reading my PJO, whatever you call it. And she was like, you, you, you have a bachelor’s degree.

And I said, yes. And she said, oh, okay, well, I, I suggest you sign up for teaching. And I said, well, I wanted to sign up for cleaning microwaves because I want to sit in my bed and cry all day. Um, but cause that’s what I legitimately wanted

Toby Dorr: right, right,

Natasha Dasher: And so she said, well, that’s fine with me, but I’m telling you, I will encourage you to go and teach.

And so for 30 days, I was on, um, dorm duty. I cleaned the microwaves in the microwave room. Um, and I was I mean, within 30 days, it felt like it was 30 years. And so by then I had connected with one of my closest friends now to this very moment. Um, and she was in the cosmetology brand and she was busy, but she had five years and she was busy and she was already in her third year and she said, this is how you’re going to do this.

And she’s like, you’re going to go GED too. She’s going to go teach GED from seven to three and that’s what you’re going to do because it’s going to kill your time and you’re going to get so engrossed in wanting to help other people. And so I did, and it was great. I’m grateful because I was able to connect.

With women, um, and give them ideas and starting plans because I was already careered when I went into prison, I was, you know, 37 years old. And so, um, I’d already owned very, you know, successful businesses and restaurants. And so we became a network of, okay, when you get out, you know, to take this class, you got to pass this GED so that you can go ahead and do this.

And this is what you do next. And when you get home, this is what you can do. And I’m so proud to say that a lot of those women did. Um, and they’re very successful, um, and then they’re not just in D. C., some are in Baltimore, some are in Connecticut, but I can see and it does feel good. And so now I’m like, well, if I could just do it as an inmate, you can do it.

As a federal government.

Toby Dorr: right. That’s right.

Natasha Dasher: and so, um,

Toby Dorr: you know, I think I found that women in prison were just desperate to grab hold of any thread. Anyone would throw them. And so all you have to do really is give them somewhere to direct their energy and their time because I think they’re all willing to do the work. I don’t think any of them want to come back and, you know, be stuck where they were.

But there has to be opportunities there for him to go. So I think that’s great. I also am really impressed with your advocacy work. So living in the DC area it’s a perfect place to be an advocate and you’re on a lot of boards for criminal justice reform and you’ve done some congressional hearings and Tell me the things that you’re fighting for the most in your advocacy Mm

Natasha Dasher: is the conditions in the programming for women and the re, the effects of children. We do not have a lot of data in this country overall on how many children are affected by incarceration every day. We can count how many are hungry. We can count how many are homeless. We can’t count how many got COVID. We can’t count how many are affected by incarceration. And so that’s one of my biggest, um, pursuits. And this journey of advocacy is to really get the accurate data and that to see if these numbers are increasing because to my knowledge in the ones that I do piece together from different universities and the United Nations has done one, um, that the numbers are increasing and they’re increasing hugely.

Um, and, but there’s no one local. domicile that will say, okay, for my city, we have 9000. Um, they have averages because they average by the woman, if a woman is incarcerated, whether she has them, excuse me, while she’s incarcerated, or did she have during intake, they’ll take these numbers. Well, sometimes the women are incarcerated and their children aren’t counted for because they’re being cared by for by another parent. But this child is affected by

Toby Dorr: They’re still affected. Right. That’s exactly right.

Natasha Dasher: um, and so that’s one of my biggest pursuits is to actually get the accurate number of Children that are infected by incarceration in this country. My second would be, of course, again, to work on the conditions of how women the incarceration process or the justice process for women is very different.

And you’re taking a mother from a child, um, regardless of whether I’m a convicted felon, whether I’ve committed a, committed a crime, I am still a mother first. And so looking at how the justice system, um, can deal with that and how they incarcerate women at a much higher rate than they do, um, for men. And how the statistics, how we are 85 percent of women that are incarcerated currently in the U S are incarcerated because of a man.

Toby Dorr: Yes.

Natasha Dasher: say that it’s simply as simple as I can. Um, men, you can be upset. I apologize. I’ll still love you still. Um, but it is the truth. And so when we start to identify that that is. A rate at an alarming rate and it is something to say, okay, not to say that she doesn’t need to receive a consequence, but did she do this with criminal act in the, in the idea of gaining for financial that she, you know, did she do this for these and looking at our sentencing?

Right? Because I know women, I personally served time with women, um, who were given ashtray. I mean, okay. unbelievable sentences in various counties, um, in this country that are a vast difference and then what a man received. Um,

Toby Dorr: right.

Natasha Dasher: for these conspiracy charges, the knowing, I didn’t commit the crime, I knew it, but I, I, I, yeah,

Toby Dorr: Yeah. I, one of my best friends when I was in prison, her husband was selling drugs. And so he was arrested as a drug dealer and she was arrested for conspiracy and they had a six year old daughter at home. And so, you know, my friend had nothing to do with the drug business. In fact, she was trying to talk her husband out of it.

And. Instead, they throw them both in prison for 10 years. And this six year old daughter lives her entire life without any parent. I mean, that that just doesn’t make sense because, you know, there are some people who get caught up with the wrong people are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they do something that is not right.

But it doesn’t make them a criminal who’s going to be a danger to society. And I think that giving them some kind of, uh, home sentence or some kind of a program they can do and still be a parent to their child is going to be a much better benefit for society than putting them in prison for 10 years.

So yeah, there’s just a lot of things I think that we could choose to do different and

Natasha Dasher: costs associated with that, right? How much it costs to, to board them and how to keep them and then the sort of the resources and the cost to someone to care for their child because they were unable to work and do these things. And so, if they even got, maybe the family would have had to get government services.

You know what I mean? It’s just, it’s a, it’s a spinning cycle and it’s an unaddressed, an unaddressed issue. And, um, The justice system and they keep going around and so they’ll give us, you know, pardons and, um, they’ll give us, you know, these small things and then they’re not changing and focusing on the larger issues.

And so that’s really where my advocacy. I am a little person and, uh, as they like to say, because I’m only 5 feet. Um,

Toby Dorr: Five feet too!

Natasha Dasher: yeah, so.

Toby Dorr: five feet also,

Natasha Dasher: Yeah.

Toby Dorr: Yeah,

Natasha Dasher: So, you know, I, I like to tackle big. Um, I, I don’t. And so those are, those are some of the things that I, I definitely spend my time, my advocacy.

Toby Dorr: Mm hmm. I love that. I love that. You know, and when I moved to the Washington DC area a year and a half ago, And I You know, really couldn’t figure out why God was pushing me to this area, and I kind of felt like, you know, perhaps there is some advocacy work here that I can get involved in, because it’s the place to be, really, if you want to make a change in a system,

Natasha Dasher: Yeah. And we connect, you know, um, we need a lot more women because we do understand we deal with shame

Toby Dorr: Yes, yes,

Natasha Dasher: deal with a lot of us, um, deal with shame. And so we would rather know, you know, they, they love me and they’re like, yeah, you know, we love you T but yeah, I just want to go ahead and just forget about it and move on.

And I’m like, yeah, but we can’t change. Who we know, because we still know, you know, at least three people that are still serving their sentences, right? Um, what about Nikki? What about Lisa? What about Abby? You know? Um, and so if we just think about them and I’m just asking you to talk or I’m just asking you to show up or sign your name to this petition or.

Um, things of that nature and so once we get out of the imagery and the shame and it’s because it is a negative stigma, um, it is so many people and so I get the, I get, usually I get, Oh my gosh, you were incarcerated like it’s a look like and I always laugh and I’m always like, why am I supposed to be, you know, missing teeth and not articulate

Toby Dorr: Yes. Yes. Mm-Hmm?

Natasha Dasher: I’m confused.

Um, and so I’m like, what is it? What does that person look like to you? You know? And so they’ll say no, but we just don’t, especially women, you know, really don’t see women. And I’m like, that’s the problem.

Toby Dorr: Mm-Hmm. . That is the problem.

Natasha Dasher: it’s an American society, it’s American issue and it should look like America. Right.

Toby Dorr: My, uh, my, we live with the same house with my stepson and his family. We have a separate living space here, but, but it’s beautiful because we’re with the grandkids, you know. involved every day and every minute of their lives.

And I’ve been really honest with my two grandchildren here. They know I’ve been in prison and they know what I did and. And so I thought we had it covered, but then I was a podcast guest one day and my granddaughter happened to walk in the room and I said something about being a criminal and, and she put a picture on my desk and it had a little girl with tears running down her face.

And she said, grandma, why are you a criminal? You know, and then I had to tell her, well, you know, I’ve been in prison and she said, yeah. And I said that that’s what criminals are. And she said. Oh, you know, she didn’t have that picture. 

Natasha Dasher: Mm hmm. 

Toby Dorr: you know, and in her mind, a criminal is like this terrible person with a gun and a black mask on their face, you know, so it’s just kind of interesting.

The perception that people have out there, even when you think that you’re up front and honest and out, you know, talk about it, there’s still misconceptions.

Natasha Dasher: Oh yeah. I get it all the time. They’re like,

Toby Dorr: so relate to that.

Natasha Dasher: gosh. And I’m like, what are we supposed to look like? I mean,

Toby Dorr: yeah,

Natasha Dasher: out of curiosity.

Toby Dorr: Ethan. Yeah, yeah, I guess. It is, it is interesting. But I tell you, I have some of the closest friendships I’ve ever had in my life I found behind bars.

Because it’s just such a place where We are all each other has, and, and there’s good people in prison. There’s really, truly good people who can be a benefit to society. And I applaud you for the work you’re doing to help them, you know, take up with that when they get out. So is, is there one question you wish I’d ask you?

And if so, how would you have answered it?

Natasha Dasher: If there was one question that you would have asked me that I could, that I did not answer.

Toby Dorr: huh. Yeah, is there something you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about?

Natasha Dasher: Oh, gosh, Toby, our stories are so different, but so Simon, you know, so, but yet still the same,

Toby Dorr: Yes, yes.

Natasha Dasher: know you and I could talk forever,

Toby Dorr: We could.

Natasha Dasher: I just. I think we’ve covered it. You know, we’ve covered a lot of topics, imagery, um, things we want to see different and changed and, um, about our community, the importance of our community, being graceful to ourselves, offering ourselves and forgiveness and grace.

And that’s really what this journey is. I always tell anyone that I talked to about this, especially I speak to us women who are returning citizens, give, offer ourselves some grace, forgive yourself and take your time. It’s not a. This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.

Toby Dorr: hmm.

Natasha Dasher: Um, do not feel like, do not look at, compare yourselves to, um, or measure your level of success of reentry or returning back compared to someone else, um, their story, their, everything is different.

Um, and just really take the time to reunify and heal. Um, you will

Toby Dorr: that’s so important.

Natasha Dasher: Yep. And once you do start to do those things, everything else will line and fall in place.

Toby Dorr: Did you have anything that happened in your life that surprised you when you got out? And I’ll tell you one thing that in my life that I was really surprised about. The first weekend I was out of prison, my brother took me to the movies and he thought, you know, this will be so nice. Toby hasn’t been to a movie and I think, you know, just be a great thing to do.

And I had this huge panic attack in the theater because it was so dark and there was all this people behind me and they were moving and chewing and, and I just, you know, I had to go in the bathroom and I spent the whole movie sitting in the bathroom because I couldn’t deal with the dark movie theater.

Did you have anything like that that took you by surprise when you got out?

Natasha Dasher: My addiction to the remote, my mother thought it was hilarious. So one of the things, another thing with me is that I went, when I left, um, incarceration, I left my home. My home was 6, 237 square feet. And I had to go back to my twin bed of my

Toby Dorr: uh huh,

Natasha Dasher: been at home in like over 18 years, something like the number was

Toby Dorr: I did the same thing, went back to my mom’s house in a twin bed,

Natasha Dasher: Yep. And so, um, she would laugh because I wanted the TV and I didn’t realize why I was away that I, you know, we had a TV room. It was pretty decent. You know, we had to figure out what we wanted, you know, to watch a month in advance, which is a little hard sometimes, but listen, it worked, right? It was cable.

It was

Toby Dorr: yes,

uh 

Natasha Dasher: Um, but I didn’t realize the control of the ability to watch television when I wanted to watch

Toby Dorr: yes, uh

huh, 

Natasha Dasher: was so sacred to me and I still do it to this day and I am nine years from release and I still hold the remote in the bed with me,

Toby Dorr: yeah,

Natasha Dasher: nightly. I cannot sleep unless I know where the remote is.

Toby Dorr: Isn’t that interesting? Yeah, I think it’s interesting the things that we don’t even expect that take us by surprise, the little quirks. So I’ve gotten used to the movie theater, but I still think it’s, yeah, I still think it’s pretty cool when I can walk out a door anytime I want to. And turn around and go right back in it if I want.

So that’s pretty cool. Well, Natasha, it’s been such a delight having you on, and I’m sure you and I will be doing a lot more work together because I’m really serious about wanting to get involved with what you’re doing. I think it’s just some awesome work. Thank you so much. And, um, I’m going to wind us up here and we’ll be back in just a minute.

Natasha Dasher: Toby for having me.

Toby Dorr: Thank you, Natasha. 

Thank you for joining me on Fierce Conversations with Toby. Your support and listening means so much to me, and I hope today’s conversation makes a difference in your world. If you would like to support this podcast, there are many ways to do so. I found these ways tend to help the most in getting our message out into the world.

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