HARRISBURG, Penn. – Right now in the United States, there are as many as 200,000 women behind bars, and more than 1,000,000 women on probation and parole. Many of those women have families that are torn apart when "mom" enters the criminal justice system. However, one organization is helping women pick up the pieces when they are ready to start over.
Marsha Banks is the woman behind the non profit called Amiracle4sure. She has a master's degree in public service, she's the matriarch of a tight-knit family of eight, grandmother of seven, and she's not afraid to share her past with drugs and the law.
"I got sentenced to one and a half to five years, endangering the welfare of my children," Banks said.
After two years in prison, Banks was released and determined to have a fresh start.
"I needed to stay clean," she explained. "I needed to stay focused [and] I needed to take care of my family."
For thousands of women, re-entry into life after prison isn't easy. Sabrina Whitsel served eight years for a fatal drunk driving accident. When she got out, she had no place to live, no job, and limited skills.
"I was, you know, computer illiterate and I didn't even know how to use a cell phone," Whitsel said.
Her prayers were answered when someone referred her to Marsha Banks. For the past ten years, Banks has helped women transition from prison by finding them housing, child care, job training, and full-time employment.
Whitsel works 40 hours a week at a local thrift store. Without a support system, many women land back behind bars. Marsha banks calls her own success a miracle.
"I really wish I could tell you that it was more than that, but I am a miracle for sure," Banks said.
She's one woman; defying the odds and helping others do the same.
Right now, all 12 apartments Banks has are full, and she is looking for more housing. Her after-school program is also helping 20 more families. She gets funding from her home state of Pennsylvania and private donations.
By the way, Banks' oldest son Timothy also spent time in prison. When he was released he followed in his mother's footsteps, founding the Building Achievements and Raising Standards, or "BARS" program, a mentoring program for young men.
Marsha Banks was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Besides being the Founder of Amiracle4sure, Banks is an active member of her community. She is co-Chair of Ramona Thompson Collaborative Board of Dauphin County, and is Parent Leader of its Parent Involvement Community. Banks is a wife, mother, grandmother, mentor, and a motivational speaker who empowers individuals who seek support while transforming their lives. This includes overcoming barriers that addictive and destructive behaviors may have caused.
Banks is committed to strengthening parents and empowering them to play an active role in their future. She strives to ensure all families are given access to quality human services. Banks believes in leading by example.
She is honored to have received the Urban League Guild Award, Outstanding Human Service Award, the Kwanzaa award Kujichagulia "Self-Determination." She graduated from Harrisburg Area Community College with honors and became the first African American student government president in HACC.
Banks offers support through mentoring and education to individuals who are in need of guidance. She strives to provide an environment that allows every individual the opportunity to share their strengths, weaknesses, ideas, hopes, and dreams.