She used to walk the streets peddling drugs and her own body for sex. Facing 50 felony convictions, she eventually wound up in a maximum security prison in Daytona Beach, Florida and confined in a small cell with a bed and a Bible.
By that time, Dawn Knighton had lost her desire to live after all her pain and sufferings.
But on the night she was taken to jail, a spark of light was kindled in her mind and she decided to recommit to her Christian faith from which she had walked away and ask God for help.
"I said, 'God, if you're really who you say you are and you can set me free, if you'll set me free, I'll spend the rest of my life telling people what you've done in my life.' And he did!" she told CBN News in a recent interview.
From there began her radical change. Knighton had a vision of God using her to help women coming out of prison with nowhere to go.
She started counselling and praying with other female inmates and completed her first year of Bible college while in prison.
With the "grace of God," as she calls it, Knighton was released from jail after serving only a year and a half.
She then started a new life as she moved in with her mother, worked as a barber, and pursued her Bible studies at Covenant Bible College and Seminary. In 2013, she was a conferred a doctorate in theology.
Knighton now sees her early release from jail and her new life as nothing short of a miracle.
"I had never really seen anyone who had come out of my lifestyle—who had made it. And I told the Lord, I said, 'I want to be the one to do it,'" she recalls.
Knighton is now a Christian counsellor and an ordained minister working with the Florida Department of Corrections to minister to women in the very same prison where she once served time.
She also founded Radical Restoration Ministries in 2008, a faith-based nonprofit whose mission is to help rehabilitate women coming out of prison.
"I had a lot of people tell me, 'Oh, this is jailhouse religion. And when you leave, you're going to lose it!'" Knighton says.
"It's been nine years, and I'm more on fire and more zealous today than I've ever been. And I refuse to hear that. I'm going to live for Jesus, and I'm going to stay on fire. I want to see revival in the prison," she adds.