Kendra Burgoon holds up old mugshots and talks about how she’s changed since those photos were taken.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Three First Baptist Church of Socorro County members were recognized Tuesday for their outreach work in the county jail.

Linda Brown, Jayme Avery and Lyla Swearingen were all recognized in a proclamation by the Socorro County Commissioners for their outreach efforts at the Socorro County Jail.

“The Board of County Commissioners and Detention staff recognize that those persons in the Socorro County Jail are our friends, relatives and neighbors and deserve all of the resources and care available as they will hopefully be released and re-join our community,” reads the proclamation.

The proclamation recognizes the three women for many years of providing “emotional and spiritual support,” and “training and life skills,” to inmates.

From left, Lyla Swearingen, Jayme Avery and Linda Brown are recognized for their outreach efforts at the Socorro County Jail.

Kendra Burgoon spoke, publicly thanking Linda Brown for her support when Burgoon was incarcerated.

“I started using meth at 12 years old, IV. Spent four different stays in the penitentiary,” said Burgoon.

Burgoon was frequently in and out of the county jail, spending a total of 14 and a half years incarcerated.

“And every time I knew Miss Linda was going to be there. And every time I would walk into her classroom and be ashamed of myself because she’d always tell me, ‘You can do better. I expect better, and I know God wants better for you.’”

Burgoon was sent to the Department of Corrections as a county hold for 10 and a half months.

“So, I sat in a little cell by myself for 10 and a half months, but I did my Bible studies, and I remembered Miss Linda’s words when she told me she expected more of me,” said Burgoon.

She saw Brown the day before court, who advised her to pray and was optimistic that she could be released. Burgoon was facing 22 years in prison. The judge told her she would be let out on probation with zero tolerance, but instead, Burgoon asked to be put in drug court.

“It’s because Miss Linda Brown told me to speak up for myself and ask for what was going to help me,” said Burgoon.

After 27 years of meth use, Burgoon completed drug court and has been sober for four years and four months.

Burgoon said the county jail staff, including Administrator Eddie Garcia, also saved her life.

“Normal county jailers don’t care about you. These ones do,” said Burgoon.