Sara J. Kruzan
I like to defy people’s belief that the impossible can never be possible.
In 1995, when I was 17 years old, I was convicted of killing the man who sexually trafficked me as a child after many years of abuse and forced sex trafficking. I was sentenced to life without parole plus 4 years when I was 16. Tried and convicted in the adult criminal justice system, I spent the next 19 years in the Central California Women’s Facility. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I grew up in prison. My case and the sentence I received generated a lot of media attention, and criminal justice reform organizations campaigned for a new trial. I was finally granted parole on October 31, 2013 and began the next chapter of my life as a human rights defender for victims of child sex trafficking and youthful female offenders sentenced to excessive and or life sentences in prison.
I am often asked how I could sustain my spirit through all those years of incarceration.
I relate it to a book I read by Viktor Frankl called “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived his imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII. I read his book several times and it cultivated a sense of drive and determination within my spirit. I realized that I could choose to live free within myself. It shifted my reality and that released me from the tension of being incarcerated.
And the willingness to persevere was ever present. A video produced by The Human Rights Watch to inspire policy change in California went viral, before I knew it... a country was made aware of my plight. Thousands of people around the nation as well as internationally connected to me through letters, cards, phone calls and visits! I was inundated with Love, Dignity, and Encouragement. To this day I continue to pay it forward.
An act of love aligned with the desire to give back , heal and restore truly can rebuild community. How does one rebuild a community within confinement and dehumanizing day to day trauma? I believe if we follow the Chaos Theory we can ignite within the confined walls the environment does not have to define them.
Since my release, I feel like I have an invisible lifeline to the ladies who are still inside. I feel that I am an extension of their current experience. I like to defy people’s belief that the impossible can never be possible. I know that we must support each individual’s healing to heal our communities.
Today I am intentionally positioned alongside others who root their action in principles that foster the healing and wellness of our communities.
My core mission is to empower those who have been dehumanized. Through independence and interdependence, we can remind our fellow human beings who are and were incarcerated, that they already have all that its needed to be leaders.