Former Inmate Now Mending Hearts and Restoring Lives

Byline: By Dee Ann Adams

News Category: Inmate Reentry Programs

Produced in Partnership with YouInspire
YouInspire is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing "support through the sharing of stories of hope and encouragement."
Learn more about YouInspire by visiting their website.

For years, Katrina ("Trina") Frierson walked the streets of Nashville selling drugs to feed her own addiction. Surrounded by violence and periods of homelessness, Frierson was incarcerated multiple times and lost custody of her children before finally overcoming addiction. 

Today, she is a beacon of hope and offers life-changing help for women in similar circumstances.

It all began when Frierson dabbled in alcohol and drugs during high school. After graduating, she earned a basketball scholarship to Volunteer State Community College where she played ball for one year before getting pregnant with her first child. 

Soon after, Frierson went down a dark path. She became hooked on crack cocaine, and her life began to spin out of control. 

"I lived to use and used to live,” Frierson said. “I was always trying to find another fix. I learned to sell drugs to make a life.”

Frierson served time in jail off and on for seven years. During that time, Frierson had two more children, who were born into addiction. While pregnant with her son, Frierson was shot three times. She simply couldn’t escape her demons. 

In 1994, Frierson returned home after buying several ounces of drugs, which she hid in the house before passing out. She woke up to find law enforcement officers raiding the home, which was also filled with weapons.  

Frierson served a sentence at Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Nashville, which CCA operates on behalf of the Davidson Country Sheriff's Office. Though it wasn't her first time being incarcerated at this facility, thankfully, it was her last.

It was during this experience that she hit rock bottom and began to dig her way out.

“I can’t say when that magical thing happened, but a counselor in treatment challenged me to get myself together,” Frierson said. 

That’s exactly what she did.

Trina visits CCA MetroMetro-Davidson Country Detention Facility Warden Blair Leibach speaks with Trina Frierson during a visit to the facility in Nashville, Tenn.

Frierson participated in CCA Metro's residential substance abuse program.  And though she had experienced treatment before, during this opportunity she began to do things differently. She worked with the licensed counselors and other female inmates and began making new choices to free herself from a life of addiction.

Frierson transitioned into a residential reentry center (also referred to as a halfway house) when she was released from the Metro facility. The people there were supportive while she worked to remain clean. They also helped her find resources. With 17 felonies on her record, Frierson didn’t qualify for food stamps.

“The women in the halfway house said, ‘When we eat, you’ll eat.’ They made me part of that family setting,” Frierson said.

At the same time Frierson was changing her own life, she remained in contact with the women she met in jail and vowed to find ways to help them. In 2004, Frierson founded Mending Hearts, Inc. with Charlotte Grant, who had also battled addiction and homelessness. 

Tina Harris, an addictions treatment counselor at CCA Metro, worked with Frierson on continuing her care plan after one of Frierson's incarcerations. Harris described Mending Hearts as an extension of hope and support to those who are embarking on a new way of life.

"Trina's program is most certainly needed, as it is a beacon of hope within the community. Its presence enhances public safety and provides a safe atmosphere for change," Harris said. "I'm not surprised she has been successful in opening the multiple Mending Hearts locations; I saw something unique in Trina from the first day I met her."

Mending HeartsMending Hearts' halfway houses serve 80 women in Nashville, Tenn. who are coming out of prison and jail or are homeless.

The first Mending Hearts halfway house Frierson opened was in an area of town known to be a haven for addicts. Frierson and Grant worked with local partners to make substantial building improvements. As charitable donations began coming in, they were able to buy more property along the same street.  Not only were they making more room to serve additional women in need, but they were also cleaning up an unsafe neighborhood.  

Today, Mending Hearts can provide shelter, hope and healing to 80 women at a time who are coming out of prison and jail or are homeless.  These women have suffered addiction, mental and emotional disorders. Frierson spends her days overseeing the organization’s 30-person staff, finding new resources and securing funding.

CCA, which is headquartered in Nashville and has a strong community-giving mission, has been a Mending Hearts donor for many years through the CCA Charitable Fund.

“It’s a dream come true to have the place where I was incarcerated now supporting my program,” Frierson said. “We’ve been blessed.”

Many of the women who are incarcerated at the CCA Metro facility voluntarily transition into a residential reentry center upon completion of their sentence. Mending Hearts is among those centers that serves these women.

Harris sees great value in Frierson's programs.

"I continue to look forward to the even greater things Trina will continue to do through Mending Hearts as a change agent," Harris said. "As a humanitarian and counseling professional myself, programs like Trina's warm my heart, and it continues to remind me that the human condition can receive healing and lives are truly being changed."

Frierson continues to give back to CCA Metro as well. She works closely with the case managers and speaks to groups of inmates regularly. Her message is clear. 

“There’s a better life out there for us,” she tells the inmates. “We don’t have to return to the place we’ve always been. We don’t have to be who we once were.”

She certainly isn’t the same person. Frierson has mended the relationships with her children and is a well-respected leader in the alcohol and drug treatment community. She also returned to school and is expected to earn a master’s degree in December 2014.  

“My life is a miracle,” Frierson said. “I don’t know why I was chosen to survive, but it’s a blessing. Instead of being an embarrassment to my family and community, now I can be an asset.”

Trina and Tina HarrisTrina Frierson, left, gives a hug to Tina Harris, an addictions treatment counselor at CCA's Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Nashville, Tenn. Harris has long been a supporter of Frierson's Mending Hearts program.


Katrina Frierson's story of hope and healing is a feature video on www.YouInspire.org. YouInspire is a non-profit agency that is building an online community of survivors and fighters.
Learn more about the residential and recovery programs offered at Mending Hearts by visiting www.MendingHeartsInc.org.  
Former Tennessee inmates and their families may visit www.TNOffenderReentry.com to see listings of non-profit and government resources within the State, including Mending Hearts and other social services.  

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