Tia: Survivor, Formerly Incarcerated, and Now She’s Empowering Others and Forcing Out Recidivism Through Education

Tia Ryans

Tia Ryans is a survivor, an advocate, formerly incarcerated woman who is helping others and forcing out recidivism through education – through her incredible organization, F.O.R.T.E. House. 

From the ages 5 to 14, Tia was sexually abused by her stepfather, prompting her to run away from home often. Throughout the years, Tia had brushes with the law and did stints in a series of group homes. Despite attending seven different schools, running away, and everything else she experienced – Tia was consistently a great student. She graduated from Orange High School in 2004 with a 3.8 GPA.

Shortly after she started college, Tia was incarcerated and sent to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, in Clinton, NJ, where she served 10 years. After numerous years of anger and frustration, Tia began taking college courses and ended up leaving the Correctional Facility with 30 college credits – that led her to get her degree from Rutgers University. Tia holds a Bachelor’s degree in both Political Science and African American & African Studies from Rutgers University.

Tia is a direct witness to the issues and impact of the criminal justice system. Her areas of passion and study surround the intersectionality between environmental, social, and criminal injustices that impact disenfranchised communities. She is an advocate for all people, including  women and girls affected by physical and sexual abuse. 

Tia’s life and experiences led her to coming up with the idea for F.O.R.T.E. House, while she was still in college. And led her to fight for this dream and bring it to fruition. 

F.O.R.T.E. House provides a healthy and transparent living environment, access to employment, academic readiness, food, and clothing for formerly incarcerated students transitioning through post-secondary education. As the Founding Executive Director of Forcing Out Recidivism Through Education (F.O.R.T.E. House), Tia focuses on providing a healthy and stable living environment while promoting autonomy for formerly incarcerated students transitioning from incarceration through post-secondary education. Tia and F.O.R.T.E. House take meaningful steps to promote inclusiveness, autonomy, accountability, and economic self-sufficiency for all participants, devising and implementing a supportive housing strategy upon reentry and maintaining strategic partnerships with community institutions, and maintain retention and minimize felon disenfranchisement.

Tia is also the Founder and Chapter Leader of All of Us or None – Northern NJ, where she organizes grassroots advocacy initiatives and community givebacks to support people directly impacted by the criminal justice system and their family members. AoUoN works to combat the discrimination that people face because of arrest or conviction.

Tia joins the 1 Girl Revolution podcast to share her incredible story of survival, resilience, purpose, and passion. Tia talks about her early life, her incarceration and how she started taking classes while serving time, and her experience getting back “outside” behind the walls of the correctional facility. She shares about the struggles and difficulties that the formerly incarcerated face, but discusses ways that we can all support them and be a bridge. Tia talks about her experience going back to school, her time at Rutgers, and how the idea for F.O.R.T.E. House came about – and how it came to fruition. Tia talks about the incredible work she’s doing with F.O.R.T.E. House and All of Us or None – Northern NJ. 

You don’t want to miss this incredibly powerful and inspiring episode! Listen below:

For more information on Tia and F.O.R.T.E. House, please visit the F.O.R.T.E. House website. And please Follow them on Facebook


And for more information on All of Us or None – Northern NJ, please visit their website and Facebook page.

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