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Drug use, abuse, rape and prison: This Wonder Woman doesn’t take second chances lightly

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In the week leading up to Mother’s Day, EastIdahoNews.com is partnering with Monarch Healthcare to profile interesting and unique ladies living and working in our neighborhoods and communities. We present to you East Idaho Wonder Women.

IDAHO FALLS — It didn’t matter that Stephanie Taylor-Silva had been through 14 different drug rehabs since the age of 13 – at least not to her anyway. With battle scars from childhood abuse, drug use, a gang-rape and human trafficking, Taylor-Silva wasn’t immune from negative experiences.

“I felt like I was the victim. When you’re not living a life of recovery, you don’t hold yourself accountable,” Taylor-Silva told EastIdahoNews.com recently. “It wasn’t until I got to prison that I’ve learned exactly what accountability meant.”

Now working as a full-time employee for the District 7 Idaho Department of Correction, she sees her experiences as stepping stones to her present-day success.

“I come from a very dysfunctional family,” Taylor-Silva said.

At age 27, she had already built up a severe criminal drug history. She was under felony supervision after a high-profile drug trafficking case when her life took a dramatic turn for the worst.

During her supervision in Idaho Falls, she committed another drug felony in Montana. But, unlike the other times spent in county jail, Silva was on her way to prison and her fifteenth round of intense drug treatment.

“The scariest experience I had ever had was riding on that prison transport bus back to Idaho Falls. I did not want to come back here. I had tried to move out-of-state,” Silva said.

When she appeared before a judge in Bonneville County for her final time, he acknowledged that she had a terrible drug addiction.

“He had said to me, ‘We are going to give you one last chance and this is going to be your time for treatment. This treatment you can’t leave,’ and it saved my life,” Taylor-Silva recalled.

Taylor-Silva was incarcerated in the South Boise Women’s Correctional Center. She recalls having a hard time adjusting to prison life, and her confidence was sinking to an all-time low.

“I had a really difficult time when I first got in prison. My first two months there were extremely difficult… I had no self-confidence. I didn’t feel like that I was capable of change. I was a very angry person,” Taylor-Silva said.

To Taylor-Silva’s relief, things began to change as prison officers and supervisors took an interest in her personal progress.

“It was actually my warden, and my corporal, and a sergeant there that had stepped in. I had become extremely angry with a female inmate and they stepped in and basically gave me a talk of encouragement,” Taylor-Silva said.

That talk of encouragement was exactly what Taylor-Silva needed to start on the path to full recovery.

“I felt what changed in my life was that it was trauma-informed care. Not only was it working towards my horrendous methamphetamine and cocaine addiction, but also all of the trauma that I had in my life,” Taylor-Silva said.

During her prison stay, Taylor-Silva made sure to take every class she could. She even got a job cleaning. Before long, Taylor-Silva was out of prison in 2011 and again placed on supervision. It was only three more years until she was released early from her supervision term.

“When I came home from prison, I was supervised in the office where I now work,” Taylor-Silva said.

Senior Probation and Parole officers Sara Garriott and Amy Cottrell had a significant impact on Taylor-Silva’s life. She gives them praise for helping her re-adjust to life out of prison.

“They taught me how to live again and they helped me put my life back together. I didn’t know how to have a normal life. I didn’t know what a normal life looked like. They helped me with everything from housing to employment to getting me into college,” Taylor-Silva said.

“She definitely tested my patience as a PO,” Garriott said.

Garriott said although things started out rough, Taylor-Silva made a positive impact on her as an officer and in her job duties.

“Instead of waiting for her to fail, I jumped in,” Garriott said. “Her case taught me that I’m not just reacting. I’m trying to be proactive.”

Taylor-Silva received a pardon for her crimes committed in two states. In Idaho, she received a full pardon in July 2017.

“I’ve been pardoned for every crime that I have committed here. (As for) my pardon in Montana, I just received that in December, right before Christmas,” she said.

She now works as the District 7 Probation and Parole Free2Succeed Mentor Site Coordinator and as a recovery coach family support partner. She’s also a peer support specialist at a drug and alcohol agency. Taylor-Silva is also receiving her bachelor’s degree in sociology and associate degree in criminology.

For those struggling in a similar situation, she says life gets better when you push through.

“Don’t give up. Recovery is possible. Everybody’s recovery pathway looks different,” Taylor-Silva said. “Anything is possible if you believe in yourself and you just really keep persevering and work as hard as possible.”

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