“You don’t give up,” Healing & Hope 2013 honoree Sara Kruzan said to family members of people sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. “You don’t get to quit.” At 16, Sara was sentenced to die in prison after she killed a person who had been abusing her for years.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger granted her clemency in 2011, reducing her sentence to 25 years-to-life. In January, a California judge reduced Kruzan’s conviction, making her immediately eligible for parole. She was released on October 31.

Sara was a model prisoner throughout her incarceration. She mentored several women both in and outside of prison. She was named woman of the year for the honor dorm where she lived. She also earned an associate’s degree and is working on a bachelor’s degree. Numerous organizations and individuals submitted letters of support for her clemency and parole, including a retired correctional officer who said Sara is the only prisoner for whom she has ever written a letter of support.