“I am convinced the governor really does believe people change,” Bear said. “He believes in second chances. I think this is another step toward showing that. I feel like I can bring some different perspectives to the board.”
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During his first inauguration, she sat in the first row as he singled her out after having met her on the campaign trail.
“Rhonda told me that her own incarceration saved her from drugs, but she is sounding the alarm for the extreme length of prison time that women today are receiving for nonviolent crimes in Oklahoma,” Stitt said in 2019.
Bear goes into prisons to direct women into transitional housing. She is the program director for Stand in the Gap Ministries’ Women in Transition program.
“I had a team of mentors at Stand in the Gap Ministries that really helped me get my life on track, get my children back,” Bear said.
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Bear started She Brews, a coffee house with locations in Claremore and Tulsa, to help women “transitioning from incarceration and other difficult circumstances” find jobs and learn employment skills, according to its website.
“My life’s mission is to pay it forward to help someone like I was helped,” she said.
Another group she founded, His House Outreach Ministries, provides transitional living for women and their children.
Bear said she learned a lot in the 19 months she was in prison, participating in a lot of programs that taught her how to think about consequences.
Bear believes that the biggest problem facing women leaving prison today is finding employment and paying excessive fines, court costs and restitution.
In addition, the women might be behind on child support, she said.
“The reason I feel like the work I do is important is that in 20 years, our Stand in the Gap organization has a less than a 10% recidivism rate,” she said. “I really believe that when people invest in people coming out of prison and we provide them safe housing and employment, the chances of them returning to prison are very slim, and we have the data to prove it.”