Spirituality kept Smith from dying in the ‘cement coffin’

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After spending nearly two decades on Death Row, Geraldine Smith talks about how she survived and what she’s doing to help those in similar situations.

After spending nearly two decades on Death Row, Geraldine Smith talks about how she survived and what she’s doing to help those in similar situations.

The 19 years spent on Death Row at the Dwight Correctional Center for a 1989 murder conviction, something Smith refers to as a “cement coffin,” she maintained faith the truth would soon be unveiled.

The last time a woman was sentenced to death in Illinois was 1938.

“There is something about a measure of truth, I kept waiting in the back of my mind for the truth to come out. My spirit was never broken, nor had my faith gone astray. My spirit was too free to be encapsulated, my dignity belongs to me and I wasn’t about to let them have it. All they had was my body,” Smith told the Defender.

During her incarceration, she wrote two books and mentored young women, and desired to continue once she was set free.

Smith recalled a dream that she had six nights in a row of a white hand extending out of a cloud. When she told her pastor about the dream, he instructed that she place her hand in the hand that was extended to her.

The dream — serving as a vision of life on the other side of prison walls — set the plan in motion for what’s she’s currently doing.

On Feb. 22, 2008 she walked away from Dwight a free woman.

The Illinois Supreme Court overturned her conviction due to a harsh sentence, she said.

Despite all she faced, Smith is not angry but determined, and brought only a business plan as she exited prison.

“I know what my vision is and no one can convince me different,” she said with absolute certainty.

She met businessman Donald Crawford of the Crawford Broadcasting Company is an account executive for the local and Northwest Indiana radio stations under Crawford’s umbrella; she’s working on a book; started a non-profit organization — Life Builders United, Inc. and was recently named program coordinator for the Cook County Department of Corrections.

Life Builders is a care organization offering a lifestyle redirection plan to broken and hurting women. They aim to produce stable women who will reach back to assist the youths in their neighborhoods in order to provide a safe environment for all.

Smith wants to house more than two-dozen women so she can teach them how to regain their strength in society.

“I worked toward this while I was locked up and I won’t stop now,” she said.

Her organization has two auxiliary arms, Children Having Incarcerated Parents (C.H.I.P.) and Grandparents and Guardians (G.G. Group), both aim to help women who are incarcerated or who were recently released, and children of incarcerated parents.

For more information about the organization visit www.lifebuildersunitedinc.webs.com.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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