Linda Williams is used to being underestimated by her clients, mostly federal defendants awaiting trial and those on supervised release from prison.
“A lot of people think I'm some prissy white lady who is going to tell them how to live their lives,” she said this week. “I'm not. I've been there and done that, so we have a connection.”
Williams, 64, of Oklahoma City, is a licensed drug and alcohol counselor with a master's degree in education, guidance and counseling from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
But it's her past that causes her clients to do a double-take.
When her then-husband was convicted in 1982 for manufacturing PCP, Williams received five years of federal probation because “I knew that a felony was taking place and I didn't report it.”
When the then-husband escaped from prison, Williams was rearrested and sent to federal prison for five years on conspiracy and tax evasion charges.
Released in 1991, Williams decided to address her problem with alcohol and got sober for good in 1993, the same year she decided to return to school.
She credits her drug and alcohol counselor for pointing her life in the right direction.
“I didn't even know I needed to change,” she recalled. “At first I didn't want to be in counseling, and then I wouldn't stop.”
‘She really cares'
Through the years, Williams has developed a bond with clients whose troubles mirror those she once faced.
“She really cares for her clients,” said Saby Rubio, 42, a 2010 graduate of the CARE Court program administered by the federal court in Oklahoma City. “She's been through it so she understands us.”
Williams believes she is making amends by reaching out to others in need and sharing her past, which she considers to be “an asset and not a liability.”
“My part in this whole thing is to let them know that the things they've done don't define them,” she said. “Like going to prison doesn't define who they are; it's a very small part of who they are.”