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Instilling Change: Jasmyne Cooley

For Second Chance graduate Jasmyne Cooley, knowing her worth is the key to her success. Although the reentry process can sometimes feel demeaning, determination to prove to yourself and others can go a long way. Over the past year, Jasmyne has worked tirelessly against the odds in order to be successful in all areas of her life.

Prior to incarceration, Jasmyne owned her own small business in the construction industry. Although her small business was doing well, Jasmyne was struggling with her personal identity and addiction which influenced poor decisions, leading to incarceration. During her time incarcerated, Jasmyne took the time to do mental inventory to figure out who she wanted to be. As a transgender woman in a men’s institution, this was not an easy task. There were multiple times that she was threatened by her appearance and not accepted for who she was. Due to changing cultural norms and increased human rights advocacy, Jasmyne was eventually granted permission to express herself with access to hormone therapy and the ability to use gender affirming products such as makeup, bras, panties, and a purse.

After spending 37 years incarcerated, navigating resources, particularly transgender friendly resources, was a difficult process. To assist with some of her barriers, Jasmyne was referred to the Second Chance program less than a week after her release. When she first started with the program, it was important for Jasmyne to get connected with different groups for areas such as LGBTQIA+ support and healthcare needs. She was also able to officially change her vital documents to reflect her transition. Once these support systems were in place, gainful employment became the priority. Since Jasmyne had an abundance of experience in the construction industry with her former small business, it was extremely important to match those skillsets and interests with a new job.

Besides employment, Second Chance has been able to assist Jasmyne with work clothing, transportation assistance, and housing. Second Chance also provided Jasmyne with various outside resources and assisted navigation with those resources. Although Second Chance has been able to help her in a variety of areas, the most important aspect has been the hope and confidence engrained in her that she can do things on her own. “They answered questions when I couldn’t answer them myself,” according to Jasmyne. Besides Second Chance, Jasmyne is grateful for the KC Center for Inclusion, KC Care Health Center, and Dress For Success, who have all been nothing but supportive of her since her release.

Jasmyne has successfully graduated the Second Chance program as of February 2020. Jasmyne has also continued working in the construction field, something she is very passionate about. As of today, Jasmyne owns her own business called “Jasmyne’s Maintenance and Repair” where she works as an independent contractor on various construction projects in the Kansas City area. When asked what she is most proud of, Jasmyne stated that she is most proud of her ability to work towards who she has always wanted to be and the positive choices she has been making since her release.

Jasmyne acknowledges that her struggles as a transgender woman may not be easy, but we are extremely proud of her ability to overcome adversity and look forward to seeing what her future holds with her determination to succeed.

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