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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.

 

 

 

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