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Arizona woman to attend State of the Union as Obama’s guest

Sue Ellen Allen (Facebook Photo)

PHOENIX — An Arizona woman who served time for financial fraud and now champions prison reform will be a guest at President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Sue Ellen Allen, now a Scottsdale resident, was imprisoned in 2002 and served seven years behind bars for securities fraud in Glendale. While she was behind bars, her 25-year-old cellmate, Gina, died.

Gina’s death pushed Allen to form Gina’s Team upon her release. The nonprofit works with female inmates to prepare them for life beyond the barbed-wire fence.

“It is starting inside the prison and giving them that bridge before they get out,” Allen told Cronkite News when asked about the nonprofit.

In addition to Gina’s Team, Allen also wrote a book about her prison experience entitled “The Slumber Party from Hell” and became an outspoken critic of the American prison system.

The White House said it took notice of Allen when she sent a letter to thank Obama for a pilot program that enables incarcerated people to receive Pell grants.

Allen will attend Tuesday’s address with Gina’s mother, Diane. She will be joined by several other notable Americans sitting alongside first lady Michelle Obama.

KTAR’s Brian Rackham contributed to this report.

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