by Craig Dirkes
When Crystal Hill’s baby boy was born, it was the best day of her life—and the worst. She gave birth to Jayden while incarcerated in a Minnesota prison. He was taken from her almost immediately, and she wasn’t sure when she would see him again.
Crystal was released when Jayden was a few months old, but he was in Ohio with her mom, who had assumed custody. Crystal was living on the streets of Minneapolis, unable to leave the state due to the conditions of her parole. The two things she needed most—a job and housing—seemed impossible. So, she went back to earning money the only way she knew: selling drugs.
“My justification for selling drugs was to let Jayden know I loved him,” she said. “I sent money as often as I could.”
A few months later she was arrested again and sentenced to 74 months in prison. Her dream of being Jayden’s fulltime mom had all but died. By the time she was released, Jayden would be 8!
Desperate, Crystal enrolled in Challenge Incarceration, an intensive 18-month rehabilitation program. The first six months consisted of rigorous physical training, education, chemical dependency treatment and therapy. During this time she accepted Christ. For the next 12 months she was tasked with living a productive life in the outside world under heavy supervision. She spent five months in inpatient drug treatment, went to school fulltime, worked two jobs and attended three support group meetings per week, one of which was The Salvation Army’s Aftercare Support.
“Aftercare Support is amazing,” Crystal said. “They made me feel like I was a part of them.” When she successfully completed Challenge Incarceration, she was permitted to drive to Ohio and pick up 3-year-old Jayden and her mother. The three of them now live together in the Twin Cities suburbs.
Crystal works fulltime and is a fulltime MBA student. She still attends Aftercare Support meetings and receives guidance from Envoy Tonya Carlson, Northern divisional correctional services chaplain.
“Crystal is proof that with hard work and focus, you can get back what addiction has stolen from you,” Envoy Tonya said. “The Lord restores.”
“The Salvation Army taught me how to live with integrity and trust,” Crystal concluded. “It’s an amazing feeling. I’m excited for my future.”