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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.

 

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