KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- She went in at 16. She came out at 34. In between a lot had changed for Dianne Myers. And to the world outside.
Myers was 16 when her then-boyfriend shot and killed her step-grandfather outside Hannibal, Mo. Myers had endured years of sexual abuse, she says. While she didn't pull the trigger, she fled with him to Ohio, feeling justice had been done.
"Nothin' was done. I told my juvenile officer. Nothing was done. My mom walked in and seen it, nothing changed," Myers said.
But her life would now. Rather than fight it in court, she plead guilty to second degree murder after she and her boyfriend were picked up. She didn't want her family to go through the pain. And after a childhood of struggles, prison offered her security.
"It was like a place where nobody knew me, knew anything about me. It was safer. More secure," she explained.
The years passed, and the young rebellious teen grew into a mature adult. Learning a trade. Being mentored by older inmates. She even says time passed quickly. But when it was time for freedom 17 years later, Dianne wasn't ready for the future, which arrived during her sheltered time behind bars.
"It was exciting," she said. "But I felt almost handicapped, because I didn't understand anything that was going on."
Wal-Mart looked huge. Driving looked frightening. Smart phones were baffling. The Internet, all new to her.
So was Kansas City. She moved to the city to start over, to avoid her past. Unemployed and not sure where to turn, she was referred to an office near downtown. Second Chance. Its executive director Ron Smith remembers the day, at nearly closing time, Dianne walked in.
"I asked her if I could help her and she says, 'Yes. I need help. I don't know what to do.'" Smith recalled.
She had transitional housing, but Dianne had no job search skills, no car, and seemingly no future. A part of the Kansas City Crime Commission, Second Chance is in its 7th year of helping ex-cons like Dianne, in hopes of keeping the "ex" part of that equation.
"We have been fortunate that our success rate is 25 percent or less the first year with clients who come to us," said Smith, who notes the national average is an 80 percent chance of re-offending.
So, Second Chance helped Dianne put together a resume, offered interview tips and how to handle the fact she was a convicted felon, and Dianne did the rest. She pounded the pavement, and finally landed at KMDI. The design and molding business in industrial Kansas City, Kan., recognized Dianne's desire to succeed at her second chance, and gave it to her. Manager Chris Bassett is a recovering alcoholic, and has benefited from second chances himself:
"So I understand what it's like to be given that opportunity," he said.
Dianne is learning a new trade, learning how to drive, learning about the Internet and smart phones and apps. She hopes to own a home one day. Perhaps even start a family.
"Every time I get a paycheck I'm like, 'I earned that.'" she said.
Yet at the same time, she feels remorse for standing by as her grandfather was murdered. No one, she now believes, deserves to die.
At Second Chance, which serves dozens of former inmates trying to start over each week, the man who first assisted her describes Dianne's chances of success as "astronomical".
"I am assured she'll make it," said Ron Smith.
So is Dianna.
"Now I just want to be like everybody else," she said.
For more information on The Kansas City Crime Commission's Second Chance Program, click on this link.
Or call: (816) 231-0450