Better Choices Start Now

06 Apr

She’s 38 years old and has never been on her own.  She was with her husband for over 16 years and is now divorcing.  It is her first time in prison though she admits she has a troubled past.  We’ll call her ‘Anna’ here.

Anna has been at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women 14 months and is scheduled to be released in July.  She will attend the Women Moving Forward (WMF) Conference on April  23rd.  Her biggest concern is how to become a productive member of society.  She hasn’t work much in her life. Her husband took care of her.  She does feel she has skills but her drug addiction has led to a lack of good references.

Another big worry for Anna is reuniting with her 2 sons, 19 and 14 years old.  She will fight for joint custody and hopes that the WMF Conference will help her develop a plan for addressing these challenges and build healthy relationships.  And finally, Anna believes she will be worrying over things she cannot change or control.  Anna has consented to following up with the Steering Committee after she is released.

At the WMF Conference, Anna will be able to choose 3 workshops to attend.  Roseanna Vogt chairs the Workshop Committee for WMF and is Director of the Circle of Angles Initiative Inc.  Roseanna’s team will offer 13 workshops this year.  In past years, Conference attendees have been limited to only two workshops.  The Steering Committee made room for an additional workshop this year due to popular demand.  I think you will understand when you read more about some of the workshops offered.

Getting Ready for the Outside While on the Inside will help Anna prepare now for return to her community.  The workshop will lead her to identify and prioritize her initial needs, find resources to address those needs, and discuss how to ascertain whether her primary needs are met. Her success will depend on understanding, challenging, and rewriting old patterns and learning self-advocacy.  Presenter Katherine Coates has worked for several years in state and community based programs that serve the re-entry population.Classroom2Web

Mindfulness Meditation: A Tool for Life is basic introduction to Mindfulness Meditation to help the participant learn to pay attention and stay focused. She will learn how to consciously select specific actions to calm down when emotionally triggered. It also helps to relieve stress and to learn to pause before taking action, slow down to make better choices. The workshop presenter is Carole Clemis, a retired Federal employee.  For over 4 years Carole has taught Mindfulness Meditation at the Rockville Pre-­Release Center through the Insight Meditation Community of Washington.

Family Reunification: What does “I’m not selfish” mean?/ I Still Care will cover emotional, legal, social, and financial issues of parenting from a distance and  the challenges of  returning to live with children.  This workshop will address what the phrases “Parent First” and “I’m not Selfish” mean. The presenter is Pastor Carol A. Overton, author, speaker, teacher, professional dancer, and paralegal with over 32 years of experience. She has done extensive criminal pre-­trial, trial and post-­trial work with various federal and state agencies.

As you can see, any of the workshop choices would benefit Anna, but there are still 10 other workshops offered.  In fact, the next one is a 2-part workshop—meaning if she selects this one, she can only take one other.  Job Interviewing 101 will teach the basics of interviewing with important “do’s” and “don’t’ s” from people who know. She will do a job interview with a professional who will give useful feedback to improve her interview. The professional instructors will critique her resume to recommend ways to make it a more powerful presentation of her abilities. Most importantly she will receive advice on how to handle the topic of her incarceration. There are 2 leads for this workshop. Mary Pat Donelan is the Director, Human Resources Division, IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Washington DC where she manages 37 employees who provide Human Resources functions to 2700 employees nationwide. She is also the Vice President of Maryland C.U.R.E., a prison reform advocacy group.  Fred Chandler provides intensive job development and job trainer services to previously incarcerated individuals at Montgomery Works and Work Source Montgomery.

Anna will have to select from these and other workshops that will be covered in future blog entries.   I hope this is the beginning of a long string of good choices for her. An email account has been created as a means to write to us from the outside.  The feedback from Anna and others will provide the Steering Committee with information to continue to improve and refine the conference.

The Steering Committee is comprised of 32 individuals who donate their time to make this conference happen each year.  Often, it is those same individuals who contribute financially.  The Luv U Project is matching $5,o00 in contributions and you can trigger a match by going to our WMF website.


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