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Archive for the ‘Collateral Damage’ Category

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.

 

 

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.

 

“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.