A Story Of Courage... - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/21/02 - Tyler

A Story Of Courage...

   "I was pulling up and I was so scared. The time I went in I almost didn't go in," Connie Hilton is on a mission. Each week, she goes to prison to share her past.

   "This is what I'm doing to give back," she says. In hopes to shape a future for men who are behind bars for attempting murder, breaking into homes, and doing drugs.

   For twelve years, Connie has lived in fear of men like Ira, Ollie, Steven, Anthony and Eddie--inmates at the George Beto Unit of Tennessee Colony.

   "What I have learned is the fear I have put in those people, tells Steven Robertson. "It's never over for them." Fear that began for Connie in 1990 when three men broke into her Smith County home. She was brutally raped and beaten. Her husband George was murdered.

   "At that time," Connie explains. "I stereotyped men in white, they're bad, they're bad guys and they can't be helped." Connie, once a victim, now puts a face on crime for criminals who have taken so much from so many.

   "Even though you're not facing your victims in this case--your facing the same incident--where we're still in white, we're criminals," Tells an inmate. Turning a circle of fear into a circle of healing. Victims and criminals together, helping not hurting.

   "I feel more like a victor than a victim now," Connie tells. "Because I have been able to fight back." Of the men who violated Connie, one is on death row waiting execution. As for the inmates who participate in the "Bridges To Life" program, they are pre-release prisoners. Of the 724 inmates who've been through the group, only 55 have returned to jail.

   If you'd like to become a volunteer, contact Connie Hilton at Connie@bridgestolife.org.

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