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Bags to Butterflies

'I feel like a butterfly': A Detroit woman's journey from prison to purse-making

Women's program helps returning citizens re-enter society

Bags to Butterflies a program that aims to provide female returning citizens with training and employment to help them transition back into society, was founded in 2015 by Michelle Smart with women like Ms. Charlene Billups in mind. 

While in the program, participants learn how to make handbags and accessories made out of wood as reminders to "let go of the past, live life with a sense of purpose, and fly towards their dreams."

Ms. Charlene sat down with The Neighborhoods to share her story of how she survived the past 41 years of her life behind bars. As she approaches her first anniversary as a free woman, Ms. Charlene talks about how things have changed for her, and why she, in fact, feels like a butterfly.

For more information on the Bags to Butterflies program, visit