Even though Patrice Gaines had a wonderful, middle class upbringing, and the oldest of seven children of a Marine and a homemaker, by the summer of 1970, at the age of 21, Patrice was in a Charlotte, N.C. jail. Her charge: possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a needle and syringe—felonies.
Patrice was also by this time the mother of a two-year-old daughter. Fortunate for them both, she only spent a few weeks in jail and received five years probation. But there was no reason to celebrate. Now she was labeled “a convicted felon,” an “ex-con,” “a criminal.” Though she had a child to support, finding a job was difficult.
Her bad choices continued to put her in dangerous situations. She went from one abusive relationship to another. She was raped and brutally beaten by a man she had just begun to date. She contemplated suicide, but thought of her daughter. She wanted to make her life better so she could make her daughter’s life better.