RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– People who know Sheba Williams say she leads with love and dignity for the community she serves. Williams was born and raised in Richmond, and she is now the Executive Director of No Lef Turns, a non-profit aimed at decreasing the prison population.
For Williams, it was a calling.
“It wasn’t a choice,” Williams said.
In 2004, Williams told 8News she was arrested for a charge and was wrongfully convicted. She was fired while working in healthcare in Norfolk at the time. Plus, her then-husband served a decade in prison.
“You know, I was just angry. We had put in over a thousand job applications between the two of us. I had my college degree,” Williams said. “He had trades from when he had been inside, and we didn’t get one single favorable call back.”
Her family members were also impacted by mass incarceration for generations. When she was 10-years-old, both of her parents were incarcerated.
This history motivated her to start her organization in 2016. No Lef Turns supports and empowers those who are affected by crime and trauma in the criminal justice system.
“I am not the exception,” Williams said. “I am one of many people who are working in this state because we have partners all across the state who are trying our best to fix a broken system.”
No Lef Turns provides basic benefits like COVID supplies, behavioral health assistance and food. Her staff are even trained on how to use narcan, medication used for the emergency treatment of an opioid overdose.
“We want to make sure that people have what they need and it’s not always the same picture,” Williams said.
During former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration, McAuliffe signed an executive order expanding voting eligibility and additional rights for tens of thousands of convicted felons. Since then, Williams has fought for their restoration rights.
In 2020, the non-profit was able to raise a quarter of a million dollars putting people with past convictions in hotels. Williams said more needs to be done to tackle affordable housing opportunities, which is a problem being seen nationwide.
“People who have past convictions a lot of times don’t even get in the door,” Williams said.
In 2021, she advocated for Virginia’s record-sealing law.
She’s now a mother of three, but also works with the City of Richmond and the General Assembly.
While she believes in accountability, she says there is more at stake.
“There’s like 46,000 collateral consequences. Those are things that people can be stripped of or deprived of after a conviction,” Williams said. “Those are things like being able to chaperon your children on field trips or being able to receive organ donations.”
As Williams celebrates her “remarkable” wins, she remains resilient in her fight for change.
“It’s a good thing that it is being noticed, and it’s definitely something that I don’t take for granted,” Williams said.