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“I didn’t know how to be accountable,” Meier said of her early incarceration. “I was too scared.” Three years into her sentence, she wrote to Fournier. “I’m going to be here for a long, long time. Come if you like.”
Fournier showed up. They talked. Meier braced herself to not expect much after that.
“When you are incarcerated, you lose a lot of people,” said Meier, who is not allowed to contact her three children, who are being raised by a relative. “I didn’t want to be a burden to Bonnie. Sure, come back, but I didn’t expect her to.”
“Now she expects me to,” Fournier said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t have come back every month if I didn’t think Julie was growing in a way I could help,” she said. “We’ve been able to build a friendship.”
About a year after her visits began, Meier asked Fournier if she could volunteer for the Smooch! Project. “We decided on writing,” said Fournier, who works as a personal care attendant to pay her bills and keep Smooch afloat.
“We thought we’d give Julie a try. It wasn’t a planned thing.”
Turns out, Meier had a talent for it. “I always liked English,” Meier said, “but I didn’t really write a lot until I came to prison.” She’s now taking several college courses through a prison program and has written for the prison newsletter, the Reflector.
“You picked me up when I fell down,” she writes on a page featuring two adorable sisters in a happy hug. On another, “You stood by my side and held my hand.”
The prose has dual meaning for Meier. Her own sister, P.J., has been “a rock,” she said, as has Fournier. She has been helped by many others, including mentors through the Salvation Army and Amicus, a prison outreach program. When she is released in about seven years, Meier hopes to pursue a career in social services.
“I’m different,” Meier says. “I’m in a different place.”
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