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Archive for the ‘Criminal Justice’ Category

There Is More Right With Me Than There Is Wrong

07 Apr

IRightWrong_scalen our communities, whether we realize it or not, we live among all types of people, from the kindest to the cruelest, from the most functional to the most severely affected by mental illness, addiction, etc. Among us are a range of people who would never consciously break the law to those who seem to have no regard for the law. In most cases, we choose to live where we feel safer, more comfortable to go out into our world and then return home; where, typically, we actually are safe and comfortable. According to budgets, we decide what we will eat and when and where we will eat it.  We decide what we do in our spare time, what time we go to bed, what time we arise, and what clothing we wear. There are so many decisions we are free to make for ourselves in the course of a day. Can you imagine having no control over these kinds of decisions?

Perhaps everyone should go inside a prison at least once.  As described in my previous post, the process of getting into a prison is unnerving.  Once in, it is a very unnatural environment.  At the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW), you see small groups of women dressed very much the same…jeans, gray t-shirts, denim shirts, & sneakers.  Most seem as if they haven’t given much thought to their appearance in a while.  Some of us may think the same mix of personality types do not exist within prison walls, but they do.  Especially in prisons that house all levels of offenders (like MCIW), from the worst (murderers) to the non-violent offenders.  Here, you don’t get to decide where you live or what you eat or when you eat. Here, most of the day-to-day decisions are not yours to make.  You do get opportunities to request to attend events or programs within the confines of the prison.  These programs are carefully chosen and approved by the Warden.

After the last WMF Conference Steering Committee meeting, Warden Chippendale invited us to attend a special event in the gym.  When I heard it was related to National Crime Victims’ Week, I thought it would be similar to a previous event I had attended there:  an event in which some of the victims attended and spoke of the pain they suffered.  The offenders were given a chance to apologize and make a statement.  It was a powerful experience.

But this event was different.   The offenders became the victims for a couple of hours.  The gym was filled with female inmates who could relate to the topic in some way.  They listened intently as Serenity’s Door  President and CEO set the tone of the program with 3 simple words:

  1. Empowerment
  2. Resilience
  3. Justice

 

You may think a warden would not want the inmates to hear about empowerment.  After all, prison is designed to take away your power.  However, only when one feels empowered can she truly change her life.  With empowerment comes responsibility for protecting yourself and for making good decisions.  Each of 5 presenters told her story or gave new ways of healing old wounds offering hope for a better future.

One of the speakers drilled down on the meaning of justice.  She read the following definition: ‘to be treated fairly by others (including systems)’. Of course, that stirred the room, but everyone seemed to agree it is what we all want. There was no explanation needed for resilience.  One of the inmates said the audience knew more than anyone what it means to be resilient! One speaker had everyone repeat her mantra:  “There is more right with me than there is wrong. Focus on the best, minimize the effects of the rest.”  I think we can all use that thought at times in our lives, when we need to move on from something.

The types of programs Warden Chippendale brings to the women in her facility throughout the year make a difference.  If you haven’t been taught the skills required to make a big change in your life, a 2-hour program won’t be enough.  The WMF Conference provides a crash course in how to identify needs, make a plan, find resources, and put that resiliency to good use!  It doesn’t make it easy — but perhaps more achievable.

The Women Moving Forward Conference, a collaborative Reentry Program for Women at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, conference was initiated by the National Association of Women Judges(NAWJ) in 2008 and has been held annually since.  It is funded through contributions from companies and individuals. To support this effort, go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.

 

It’s No Way to Treat Mental Disorders

01 Apr

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental disorders occur at high rates in all countries of the world. It is estimated that, worldwide, more than 450 million people suffer from mental or behavioral disorders.  In fact, in the U.S., one in 4 adults and one in 5 children suffer from some form of behavioral disorder.  And the WHO acknowledges that those disorders are disproportionately high in prison populations.  I’ve read some studies that report the ratio of mental disorders in prison is significantly  higher than in the general population.

The increase of mental disorders in prisons may have begun with the push for deinstitutionalization in the early 1960s.   Advocates of deinstitutionalization hoped it would result in the mentally ill living more independently with access to community mental health programs.  Funding for such health programs did not materialize and states reduced their budgets for mental hospitals. Ultimately, there was no replacement for the institutions resulting in hundreds of thousands of people with mental disorders being released into the communities with no access to mental health care.

So while closing mental institutions has been heralded as a step forward for mental health, it has actually led us to a place where we, once again, cage the mentally ill – this time in prisons rather than hospitals.  Prisons have become a dumping ground for people with mental illness.

Mental disorders are further exacerbated by the stress of imprisonment and are very often not treated during incarceration. Prisons are simply bad for mental health.  Overcrowding, various forms of violence, solitary confinement or conversely, lack of privacy, separation from loved ones, lack of meaningful activity and inadequate health services, especially mental health services, in prisons can cause mental disorders to manifest themselves where they were previously undetected.

Surveys show 1 in 4 adults in this country have a mental disorder.  It has been reported that over half of all American prisoners (up to three fourths of females) suffer from a mental health problem.  Most of the approximately 2.2 million American prisoners will be coming back to their neighborhoods and few of them will have been improved by the experience of incarceration.

A major sponsor of the WMF Conference is The Luv U Project, a 501(c) (3) public charity. Its mission is to turn an unacceptable tragedy into a quantifiable agenda and responsible actions that advance the understanding of, and treatments for, mental health issues.  The organization was formed in memory of Carolyn Mattingly, who was, for years, a key member of the WMF Steering Committee.  On September 30, 2014, Carolyn’s life was abruptly, violently, and senselessly ended.  In memoriam of Carolyn and as a tribute to her goodness, The Luv u Project was established as a lasting commitment from her husband, daughter, family, and friends to continue her legacy. Carolyn cared deeply about the WMF initiative and through The Luv u Project her support continues.

The Luv u Project will match contributions, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $5000 to support the 2016 WMF Conference. If you would like to make a gift, please MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO  NAWJ  (PLEASE NOTE “MCIW: WOMEN MOVING FORWARD” ON REFERENCE LINE OF CHECK.)

MAIL TO:   MCIW WOMEN MOVING FORWARD 2016
                       C/O RACHAEL CAMPBELL
                      1352 CHARWOOD ROAD, SUITE C 
                       HANOVER, MARYLAND 21076
 
The National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ)  is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization — FED TAX ID: 52-1185005.

 

 

Be the Solution — Not the Problem!

22 Mar

I read an article by Emma Brown in the Washington Post last week https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/03/08/a-principal-met-a-student-she-expelled-and-it-changed-her-approach-to-discipline/.   The article caught my eye because the subject of the article, Nancy Hanks, mentions the ‘School-to-Prison’ pipeline.  The school-to-prison pipeline is a term used to describe the consequence of practices implemented by educational institutions, specifically zero tolerance policies and the use of police in schools.  The result is the increasing patterns of contact students have with the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.  As media coverage of youth violence and mass incarceration has grown, the term is often a hot topic in discussions surrounding educational disciplinary policies.

As I read the speech by Ms. Hanks, a top administrator for the Madison, Wisconsin school system, I found commonalities with the WMF Re-Entry Conference. Ms. Hanks asks her audience to consider alternative solutions to students’ bad behavior.  She questions whether 4-5 year old pre-school children should be suspended or expelled for disrupting the learning environment.

Ms. Hanks even questions her past decisions as a Principal, one in particular where she expelled a middle school student for bringing his BB gun to school.  By chance, she came face-to-face with the young man years later and fortunately, he had not gotten swept into the pipeline.  She still felt the guilt of being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.  The overcrowding in our prisons is largely due to the ‘war on drugs’ in which we treat addiction as a crime.  We are just beginning to see laws changing to provide rehabilitation treatment for drug addicts instead of prison.  Alternative solutions should be sought for other non-violent crimes.

A strong message in Ms. Hanks speech was something we can all try to apply to our daily lives:  Separate the Person from the Act.  That is exactly what happens during the WMF conference.  The many volunteer organizations and individual volunteers look at the women attending the conference without seeing their crimes.  The women are viewed as individuals who need a little help, some guidance and training.  They will get a second chance; they will need to be able to find a place to live, get and keep a job, have healthy relationships with their families, and manage their money.  Some of them haven’t done any of this in a long timeOneonOneWeb; some of them may have never done it successfully.

And when the women do get out of prison, I hope they will encounter people who can separate them from their prior acts—people who will take a chance on them, give them a break, hire them, show them  kindness and respect.   After all, they have paid their debts to society for their past crimes.  Re-entering their communities should be a fresh start.

You can help by donating to the WMF Conference! !  Go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.

 

 

 

 

One Day Makes a Difference in Lives of Women

15 Mar

The Women Moving Forward (WMF) Pre-Release Conference is held annually in partnership with the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women (MCIW).   The conference is a one day event on Saturday, April 23.

The goal of the WMF annual conference is to provide approximately 150 women who are within 6 to 9 months of regroupweblease with resources and information necessary to successfully return to their communities.

The time-served for these women vary.  I think we can safely assume it has been some time since any of them have successfully managed to live on their own, going to work, paying rent, buying groceries,  and all the things that are part of our normal, daily lives.  Now, it is going to be much more of a challenge because they have criminal records and no relevant job history.  Many applications still ask if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.  She must answer honestly, but checking that box usually means she will not be considered if there are other applicants without the check. Ex-felons are not eligible for public housing or unemployment. Typically a city will not hire an ex-felon even for garbage pick-up. Companies who are open to hiring ex-offenders do not want anyone, especially their customers, to know. Ex-felons are not eligible for health insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act. The list of obstacles goes on and on.

There are organizations participating in the conference whose mission it is to help the ex-offender navigate her re-entry to society and they offer workshops to give the inmates an idea of what will be required of them. The activities for conference day are designed to meet the specific needs of the soon-to-be-released inmate. Workshops include how to find housing, getting and keeping a job, finding health insurance, parenting, coping with trauma and substance abuse, anger management, dealing with post-release legal issues, avoiding gangs, money management and addressing mental health issues.

One reason for high recidivism rates is probation violations so there is a workshop on successfully navigating parole & probation requirements.  Learning stress management is also an important factor to avoiding bad choices that could derail an ex-offender so yoga and meditation are offered.  The inmate is allowed to choose the workshops she feels will best serve her as she returns to her community.

It is one day. Each inmate will receive a thumb drive with resource internet sites and phone numbers as she is released and leaves the facility.  This one day could make a difference.

The WMF Pre-Release Conference is funded through contributions from companies and individuals.  A steering committee works months in advance to plan the event, taking in consideration MCIW rules and procedures.  The steering committee is made up of members of the National Association of Women Judges and employees of MCIW, including Warden Margaret Chippendale, and various organizations and individuals.  Future blog entries will introduce some of these members. 

Please support this effort by donating!  Go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.

 

 

 

The Main Event

22 Oct

 DSCN5570

Awesome, incredible, wonderful, impressive, so important —- words heard from volunteers.  There were more than 70 volunteers who participated in the Women Moving Forward (WMF) Re-entry Conference on October 11, 2014.

Grateful, helpful, kind, needed, awesome, thank you — words heard from many of the 150 inmates who attended the WMF Conference.

Before the civilian (non-Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW)) volunteers arrived, MCIW Lieutenants and Captains gave up a day off to volunteer, providing the additional staff necessary to hold the conference for the 150 inmates who will be released within the next 9 months.  The day began with welcoming words from co-chair Judge Angela Eaves.  She expressed the goal of the conference:  to provide information and resources to support the successful transition to the community.   Reverend Cheryl Mercer introduced the key note speaker, Lashonia Etheridge-Bey.

Ms. Etheridge-Bey’s portion of the program began with a powerful video by Gabriela Bulisova documenting her struggle to put her life back on track after her release from prison.  The video may be viewed on Vimeo.  Ms. Etheridge-Bey’s story is a tragic, yet inspiring one.  As a youth, she made a series of bad decisions that landed her in prison for a double murder.  Ms. Etheridge-Bey spoke candidly about her journey that included rehabilitation and atonement both inside prison and out.   Her words certainly set the tone for the day and as Judge Julia Weatherly gave instructions for the rest of the day, the women headed for their morning workshops.

It was a difficult choice for the morning.  Each inmate had to choose one workshop to attend from the following 8 options:

  • Goodbye to Gangs
  • So You Wanna Reconnect with Your Kid?
  • Get Connected Through Mediation
  • Positive Moves for No More Drama Mama
  • Yes, Your Credit Matters!
  • Confronting Post Release Legal Issues
  • Calm Down & Focus with Mindfulness Meditation
  • Empowerment to Insure and Overcome

 

Inmates were orderly in moving from the gymnasium to the classrooms which undoubtedly pleased Warden Chippendale. The workshops were well attended and inmates showed interest by participating in exercises and discussion.  One hour and twenty minutes was allotted for the workshop sessions.

A double dose of energy could be expected for the next item on the agenda.  The box lunches were quite a treat as they were brought in from the outside and fried chicken has been a favorite in the past.  There was a variety of sandwiches to choose from as well and a piece of fresh fruit in each box pleased the crowd.  But the main attraction for the lunch hour was the Fashion Show!

The Fashion Show was produced by Inez Watson and directed by Adrienne Watson Carver, Executive Director of Studio “A” Modeling, Etiquette and Dance Academy.  The models were inmates who were not among the participants of the conference and each had 3 outfit changes to navigate during the very professional exhibition, complete with a red carpet runway and music.  The crowd was wild with enthusiasm!

Breakout Session II began after lunch at 12:40 and inmates, once again, had to make some tough choices from the following list of programs:

  • How to Live on a Budget with a Savings Account
  • Parents with Patience & Purpose
  • Preparing Now for New Place Outside
  • Live a Joyful Life
  • So Everybody Needs a Job
  • My Life, My Needs, My Journey
  • Make Your Legacy Iconic
  • Break Through to Independence

 

And speaking of breaking through to independence, Lamont Carey delivered a performance that brought the house down.  After spending time behind bars at age 16, Mr. Carey became an internationally known and award winning spoken-word artist, as well as a filmmaker, author, workshop facilitator and motivational speaker.  He performed two poems for the audience.

Other activities during the day included practice employment interviews.  Volunteers, acting as prospective employers, interviewed inmates and provided feedback for future job searches.  There was a Resource Fair providing information on essential needs such as housing, jobs, healthcare, and addiction management.

The participants were given Conference Guides to assist them in making the most of the conference.  The guide included a Resource Fair Scavenger Hunt to encourage the participants to identify their most significant needs and the appropriate resources.

There was only one solemn period during the day and that was the moment of silence for the late Carolyn Mattingly, treasurer and past chair of WMF.  Mrs. Mattingly recently passed leaving a legacy of warmth and compassion and an ache in committee members’ hearts.

The conference was conducted much like any other professional business conference.  It took the attendees out of their typical workday and placed them in an environment that stimulated thought and innovation.  It caused the participants to think about the future, to plan, to dream.  And most of all, it let the inmates know that someone cares that they succeed — from the Judge who may have sentenced them to the Warden that keeps them within the fences.  No one wants to see them fail.

 

 

The Details Are In The Home Stretch

09 Oct

At the last planning meeting before the Women Moving Forward (WMF) Conference Tuesday night, the ‘home stretch’ was in front of the team of volunteers gathered around a conference table at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW).   An event like this is a challenge to put together at any venue, but add the unusual obstacles that present themselves when the event is held in a prison and you have quite a lot of moving parts that must come together.

The planning meetings are held at the MCIW.  All WMF committee members must be cleared in advance to enter the prison and go through a screening process before each meeting.  It is quite daunting to go through metal detectors and a frisk then wait for a series of gates and doors to be opened as you walk to the conference room.

Co-chairs Reverend Cheryl Mercer and Judge Angela Eaves went through each item on the agenda, checking with the sub-committee members for assurance that every detail has been addressed.  The budget was first on the agenda.   Have checks been issued to those who required payment in advance?  Is there money left to pay for the remaining expenses?  It seems that, once more, expenses have been kept to a minimum to stay within budget. The reason this is possible is because of the incredible generosity of those who contribute their time, those that provide in-kind donations, and those who contribute financially.

The participants are given conference bags to store the brochures and other information they may pick up at the resource fair.  Warden Chippendale tries to avoid gang colors for items going to the inmates.  No red bags.  And this year, no blue bags.  But the order had been placed.  The Warden approved the blue, mesh bags for this year, but already the sub-committee chair, Judge Cathy Serrette is looking into clear bags for next year.   The teamwork is impressive!

It was easy to know the flowers had been delivered — the conference room was very fragrant and chilly as the air conditioning in the room was lowered to keep the flowers fresh until Saturday.

The program book has been completed, sent to the printer and will be delivered Friday.  Box lunches have been ordered from the caterers and the inmate models have been fitted with outfits for the fashion show.  There will be a practice run of the fashion show one night during the week.  A sound system will be provided by MCIW and it was decided a song list should be provided to the Warden to ensure there are no banned lyrics in the mix.  And, yes the red carpet has been rented!

It is customary to receive ‘freebies’ when you attend a conference so the inmates at MCIW do receive goodie bags.  Of course, the committee must be pretty creative to come up with items that can be approved by the Warden. The Zonta Club of Annapolis supplied goodie bags containing personal toiletry items.

Recruiting volunteers is typically a challenge for an event.  Outside of committee members, there are more than 70 volunteers who will be at the prison Saturday.  Each of those volunteers had to be cleared by the prison.  The team will arrive at the prison at 7:45 Saturday morning to be processed in.  That will take some time!  The conference begins at 9:00 a.m.

Organizing the WMF Conference is tricky business but you would never have noticed that Tuesday night.  The WMF team is a well-oiled machine with all moving parts working together in harmony to provide wonderful and beneficial experiences for 150 inmates every year—a great send-off as they look towards a lawful and productive life in their communities!


 

The Women Moving Forward Conference, a collaborative Reentry Program for Women at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, conference was initiated by the National Association of Women Judges(NAWJ) in 2008 and has been held annually since.  It is funded through contributions from companies and individuals. To support this effort, go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.

 

Reducing Recidivism is Key for Families, Communities & Taxpayers

04 Oct

On any given day in America, more than 2 million people are incarcerated, according to a prison study conducted by the bipartisan Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons (Confronting Confinement).  Over the course of a year, 13.5 million spend time in prison or jail.  For many, it is not their first time.
Why do ex-offenders recidivate?  Most  inmates dream of a different life on the outside.  They plan to reunite with family, to get a good job, and lead a responsible life.  Most never intend to return to illegal drugs or alcohol and the problems their addictions led them to experience.  So how does it happen that over 40% of ex-offenders end up returning to prison within 3 years of their release? Among state prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 about two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years.

There is plenty of debate over the reasons for high rates of recidivism.  The causes cited range from the inherent problem of exposure to other criminals while in prison to insufficient education and rehabilitation programs in prisons to lack of support once released.  All of these and more certainly contribute to the problem.

What we do know is that the problem needs to be addressed.  The average cost of prison is approximately $30,000 per person annually.  The Federal Bureau of Prison’s 2014 annual budget is $6,936 million (43,361 positions; 20,911 correctional officers).   Among the 40 states that participated in a survey conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice, the cost of prisons was $39 billion in fiscal year 2010, $5.4 billion more than what their corrections budgets reflected.  Reducing recidivism offers significant potential savings to taxpayers and greater safety in our communities.

While the volunteers involved with the Women Moving Forward (WMF) conference are aware of the significant costs of prison, it is actually a more human aspect that drives them to continue to invest time and resources into the program.  They care.  They care about the women, approximately 65% of whom are mothers.  They care about the children of those mothers and they want to interrupt the cycle of crime and incarceration.  Children who have a parent in prison are five times more likely than their peers to commit crimes.

When asked why Dr. Shawn Flower, Principal Researcher at Choice Research Associates, volunteers her time to the WMF conference, she says, “I believe that opportunity is the key to success.  The Women Moving Forward conference provides these women with the opportunity to obtain information that may help them to successfully return to the community.  It is not a panacea – but it is a start.”  Choice Research Associates focuses their research on issues pertaining to prisoner re-entry, female offenders, community corrections, and program evaluation.

The WMF Re-Entry Conference will be held on October 11, 2014 at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland.  The conference will provide much needed information on how to find a job and a place to live, how to get IDs and Driver’s License, and how to continue Alcohol and Narcotics Anonymous support.  WMF gathers leaders and motivators to give mini-workshops to inspire the inmates who are going to be free within 9 months and to steel them against the temptations that will land them in trouble.   Perhaps the most important element is that the same judge that handed down a sentence is now lending a hand for success.

The Women Moving Forward Conference, a collaborative Reentry Program for Women at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, conference was initiated by the National Association of Women Judges(NAWJ) in 2008 and has been held annually since.  It is funded through contributions from companies and individuals. To support this effort, go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.

 


 

Shawn M. Flower, Ph.D. is the Principal Researcher of Choice Research Associates, providing criminal justice research services that focus on issues of prisoner re-entry, female offenders, community corrections, and program evaluation which employ rigorous methodologies. Dr. Flower has worked as a Program Evaluator in the field of Criminal Justice Research since 2002 and has a solid foundation working with program administrators, direct service providers, and funding agencies. In her work, she conducts both process and outcome evaluations of a variety of programs including prisoner reentry, BJA/SAMHSA funded enhancement services project for Baltimore City District Drug Treatment Court participants, and services for at risk populations including the unemployed and public housing residents. In conducting these evaluations, Dr. Flower often employs a model of researcher-practitioner collaboration called the Program Development Evaluation (PDE) method, developed by Drs. Gary and Denise Gottfredson. Dr. Flower also provides research services and policy and strategic planning support to state, local, and national criminal justice agencies.

Dr. Flower also works with Justice Research Statistics Association as a Research Associate on the National Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center project and is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Governmental Service and Research (IGSR) working on a project-by-project basis..

In April 2009, Dr. Flower was appointed to the State of Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Female Offender Management Workgroup, and served on the Program Quality Subcommittee. In 2010, Dr. Flower was selected as the Chair of this workgroup and conducts quarterly meetings to discuss the needs and issues related to women offenders along the criminal justice continuum. Dr. Flower has also served as a board member for the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women College Degree Program since 2010. This program provides incarcerated women the opportunity to participate in college classes. Dr. Flower also served on the Montgomery County Pre-Release Center Community Advisory Board from 2007 to 2012.

Since 2008, Dr. Flower has been the evaluator for the Women Moving Forward Conference, (see www.wmfmd.org) sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges and held each year at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. Dr. Flower has also been involved as a steering committee member and in 2011, served as Co-Chair of the conference. This annual day-long event provides approximately 125 women with the opportunity to attend workshops focused on re-entry issues including housing, education, mental health counseling and available resources, as well as providing an opportunity to participate in job interviews.

For more on Dr. Flower, see About Dr. Flower.

 

 

Mom’s Successful Re-Entry Critical to Child’s Success

26 Sep

The number of women in our prisons is increasing at nearly double the rate for men.  Many of these women have significant histories of physical, sexual, and substance abuse.   The imprisonment of women has resulted in an increasing number of children who suffer from their mother’s incarceration and the loss of family ties.  This is the underlying force that led to the Honorable Angela Eaves, Harford County Circuit Court, 3rd Judicial Circuit, becoming involved with the Women Moving Forward Re-Entry Conference.  Judge Eaves co-chairs the steering committee for this year’s event.

“My interest in co-chairing the Women Moving Forward Conference as a member of the National Association of Women Judges”, Judge Eaves says, “stems from a long-standing interest about the enormous impact on families and communities due to the loss of women because of incarceration.  When women are in prison there are extensive social, emotional and financial costs.  And as a judge, it’s hard to ignore this when I hear cases—whether those cases involve criminal law or family law matters—the loss of these women can be devastating.  “Dispensing justice” means that I can’t ignore it.  So, my involvement with the conference is a way of furthering my understanding and enhancing my compassion, not only for the women attending the conference, but also their families and communities.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2007 approximately 1.7 million children in this country under the age of 18 had a parent serving a sentence inside a state or federal prison.  52% of state inmates and 63% of federal inmates are parents to at least one child under 18 years old. Since 1991 parents of minor children held in state or federal facilities has increased 79%.

Children of incarcerated mothers (and fathers) experience feelings of social stigma, grief from the loss of a parent, isolation, detachment and aggressive behaviors. Studies show a potential for depression, lower grades in school, separation anxiety, impaired emotional development, stress reactions, and delinquent juvenile behaviors such as drug use, violence, and teen pregnancy. Therefore directing resources towards helping women, especially mothers, to avoid returning to prison seems like the right thing to do.

It is almost always difficult to adapt to being imprisoned, and inmates naturally develop habits of thinking and acting that allow them to function well in the prison environment which entails extremely atypical patterns and norms of living and interacting with others.   Inmates gradually become more accustomed to the restrictions that prison life imposes, and become reliant on the structure and decisions made for them.  When that structure is removed, it can be very hard to organize themselves and make good decisions.

Re-entry programs aim to reduce recidivism and successfully reintegrate an offender back into her family and community. Ideally reentry efforts begin in prison and transition into the community once a prisoner is released. However, with prison overcrowding and budgetary constraints, it becomes more and more difficult to provide enough quality programs.  The Maryland Correctional Institute for Women (MCIW) is proud of the programs they offer and the programs do seem more substantial than many of the state and federal facilities.  The Women Moving Forward Re-Entry Conference takes another step in ensuring more women are able to return to their families and communities in a meaningful way.

The workshops offered during the WMF Conference not only address the obvious necessities like finding a place to live, getting a job, and money management but they provide important information on how to stay focused  and in-control, parenting,  how to avoid gangs,  getting support for addictions, and healing from trauma.

The preservation and strengthening of families has a longstanding history in the United States ideology.  The Women Moving Forward initiative may be addressing an unseen, broken link in preserving our families.


 

The Women Moving Forward Conference, a collaborative Reentry Program for Women at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, conference was initiated by the National Association of Women Judges(NAWJ) in 2008 and has been held annually since.  It is funded through contributions from companies and individuals. To support this effort, go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.

 


 

Judge Angela M. Eaves was born in the Republic of Panama and moved to the United States in the early 1960’s.  The second of four children in a military family, she was educated in parochial, public, and Department of Defense schools throughout the United States and Germany.  She graduated in 1986 from the University of Texas School of Law and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, Texas where she obtained a law degree and a master’s degree.  Judge Eaves then began the practice of law.

In 2000, Judge Eaves was appointed to the bench serving on the District Court of Maryland until December 2007, and since 2008 on the Circuit Court for Harford County, Maryland.  She is the first African-American and second woman appointed to a judgeship in Harford County, and the first to serve in either capacity on the circuit court.

She currently serves on the boards of the Bar Foundation of Harford County, Inc., the Harford County Community Mediation Commission, and the Domestic Violence Protection Committee, and has served in the past on the boards of the United Way of Central Maryland Partnership, Court Appointed Special Advocates, the Upper Chesapeake Hospital System, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County, and the Arc of Harford County and the State of Maryland.

Judge Eaves also has been honored for her professional and volunteer activities by being selected as a 2011 Leadership in Law honoree, one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women for 2009 and 2011, a Harford Leadership Academy Top 20 honoree in 2010, an Athena Award honoree for 2009, and an Associated Black Charities Living Legal Legend for 2007.

 

Why Should We Care About Re-Entry?

25 Sep

Unless you have been in prison, have a loved one in prison or are connected to the criminal justice system, you may never have really thought about the prison population. The United States is the world leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in prisons or jails.  In fact, while the U.S. has only 5% of the world population, we have 25% of the world’s prisoners.  One in every 108 adults in America was in prison or jail in 2012

It makes you wonder who is in prison.  At the federal level, prisoners incarcerated on drug charges comprise over half of the prison population.  Many of these prisoners are charged with non-violent offenses and have no prior criminal records for a violent offense.  93% of people in prison are male, 7% are female.  The number of women in prison, 1/3 incarcerated for drug offenses, is increasing at nearly double the rate for men.

Nearly half of people incarcerated in state prisons in 2011 were convicted of non-violent drug, property, or public order crimes. In Maryland, there were a total of 21,335 people (943 women) imprisoned in state and federal prisons at the end of 2013. The male population decreased by 1% while the female population increased over 5.5% from 2012 to 2013.

According to Warden Margaret Chippendale of The Women’s Correctional Institution for Maryland (MCIW), the facility in Jessup houses more than 800 women serving sentences from 1 year to multiple life sentences.   The average age of the women is about 38 and they are serving time for a variety of crimes from non-violent drug offenses to assault to murder.  The average length of sentence is 41.5 months.

The inmates at the MCIW may earn up to 1/3 off their sentences by maintaining a clean record of behavior and taking classes and/or working.  WCIM provides a number of ongoing classes to inmates such as Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, Emotional Awareness, Thinking for a Change, Parenting Skills and Goucher College courses.

While the classes offered at the prison are essential to an inmate’s rehabilitation, the Women Moving Forward (WMF) Re-entry Conference provides valuable information at a time when 150 women experience nervous anticipation of their release and the challenges that go along with it.  These women will be released within 9 months of the conference and they are hungry for information and resources for managing their lives on the outside.   Mock job interviews, resume writing, a job fair and housing information are among the activities provided during the MWF conference.

When asked why she supports the Women Moving Forward initiative, Warden Chippendale stated “Almost every inmate incarcerated in MCIW will eventually return to society.  MCIW strives to prepare our women for successful re-entry through education, work and behavioral modification.  Women Moving Forward shares that same vision and provides much needed information and resources for the transition from prison to community.”

The WMF Re-entry Conference is funded through contributions from companies and individuals. To support this effort, go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.


 

Margaret M. Chippendale began employment with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services on September 9, 1970 as a stenographer with the Division of Parole and Probation.  She was assigned to Parole and Probation Headquarters.  In 1990 Ms. Chippendale received her Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Towson University.  Upon graduation she accepted a position with the Inmate Grievance Commission as Associate Director.  In 1992 she transferred to the Division of Correction.  Ms. Chippendale was transferred to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) in October 2013 and was promoted to Warden at MCIW on April 30, 2014.

 

“Judging” Re-Entry

09 Sep

Try to imagine this:  You have made some very bad decisions and now find yourself in the U.S. criminal justice system.  You are sitting in front of a judge awaiting your sentence.  Now imagine you have been in prison 2, 4, 6 years or even more.  The home you left behind may not be available; you certainly have no job waiting for you, and your relationship with your family has most definitely changed.  Your release date is coming up.  How do you return to society, take care of your basic needs and re-establish a healthy life and stay out of trouble?  When an inmate is released and returns home (if she has one to return to), she often goes back to the same friends and family who have, perhaps, been part of the problem that led to criminal activity.  And now that she has a record, it is harder to find a good job or afford vocational (or other) education.  It is even difficult to find a place to live.

Re-entry, as it is called, is not easy.  Perhaps that’s why, according to a Bureau of Justice study in 2005, more than two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested and approximately 50% actually returned to prison within a three-year period.    When a person relapses into criminal behavior, often after the person served time in jail or prison for a previous crime, it is referred to as recidivism. Unfortunately rates have held pretty steady since that 2005 study.

It seems difficult enough to dole out sentences to first-time offenders.  I can only imagine the frustration and sadness judges may feel to see the same person come back to the courtroom time and again. So let’s return to our imagined scenario and picture the same judge who sentenced you is now giving her personal time and resources to create a program to prepare you for a successful re-entry.  That is actually what is happening at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women (MCIW) in Jessup, Maryland.

In 2008 The National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) initiated a partnership with the MCIW and an annual pre-release conference called Women Moving Forward (WMF).  The conference held over a weekend in the fall, provides 150 women who are within 9 months of their release date with workshops and resources to aid in their re-entry. Advocacy groups and other organizations recognizing the need for reducing recidivism collaborate to provide 16 workshops address a wide range of topics crucial to a successful life outside prison.

Past WMF participants praise the conference saying they enjoyed it and found it very useful.  Even with the tools, and perhaps even more importantly, the support felt by the participants, it is very challenging for a former inmate to return to a normal and productive life.

This program is about more than just compassion for individuals, it is for the good of our communities. Crime is a problem in every community and 95% of prisoners will be released back into the community at some point.

The WMF Re-entry Conference is funded through contributions from companies and individuals. To support this effort, go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.