'I Feel Like Crying': Governor Stitt To Pardon Criminal Reform Activist
CLAREMORE, Oklahoma - An ex-convict renowned for her criminal reform efforts will receive a governor's pardon.
It's been nearly 20 years since Rhonda Bear walked out of prison. She now employs and houses women just out of the system.
Bear founded coffee shop “She Brews” in Claremore to help convicted women re-enter society by giving them a job.
It's only fitting that her pardon be signed there.
“It means more than I can comprehend. I feel like crying,” said Bear.
17 years ago, Bear's drug addiction cost her, her freedom and three children.
“When I was being sentenced my girl was eight years old and she said, I can’t even cry mom because I’ve cried so many times, please don’t leave me mom,” said Bear.
She vowed that day to change.
“I said to her that day I know you don’t understand this, but I’m going to prison and I’m coming back different, and I’m coming back to get you, and I kept my word. For once in my life, I kept my word,” said Bear.
Nineteen months later Bear was released from prison.
“I walked out of prison June 2, 2002,” said Bear.
Though the road wasn't easy, she found a job. Then, got her kids back and eventually found love.
“Don’t let the word felon hold you back from following your dreams,” said Bear.
For the past several years, Bear has been fighting for prison reform and even inspired Governor Stitt to make changes.
With her pardon less than 24 hours away, she said her fight is far from over.
“I’m still a felon, but now I’m a pardoned felon. I’m working with a senator to author a bill that says when a person gets their pardon, they get their record expunged,” said Bear.
She said one day she hopes her past will no longer haunt her and other non-violent offenders who are pardoned.