Family Preservation @ the Indiana Women's Prison
Hi - it's Jennifer again ... I have been interested to see the recent spate of newspaper articles and stories on the news about our state prison system. I think it is a natural reaction for many people to roll their eyes and not have sympathies towards those who are incarcerated; afterall, they have committed crimes and deserve to be punished. Agreed. However, I think it is critical for everyone in our community to understand it benefits all of us if offenders have access to programming to help pave the way for successful re-entry into our community. This means proper healthcare, alcohol/drug/addictions counseling, education, job training, and parenting classes.
Women's Fund has long supported the Family Preservation Program at the Indiana Women's Prison (IWP) because we believe a woman is more likely to live a lawful life and not re-offend if she has the tools necessary to be a good mother. So what does this mean?
Unless a mother has committed a crime against her child, she doesn't necessarily lose legal custody of that child when she goes to prison. Typically her mother, sister, aunt, neighbor, friend agrees to take care of the child/ren during her absence. That can be comforting to the mother knowing someone she knows will care for her child. However, care for that child can be difficult. If the caregiver doesn't have legal custody, they aren't able to access medical/dental care, school records, public benefits, etc.
Several years ago Women's Fund gave funding to hire a social worker who would work with the caregivers to ensure they were able to access the services the children needed in order to be healthy, educated, well-fed, etc.
Additionally, Women's Fund has provided support to the Family Preservation Program at IWP which allows a mother and child to have more intimate visitations than allowed in the typical visitation room. If a mother participates in appropriate parenting classes and meets other requirements set forth by IWP, she can be allowed up to eight hours a month of visitation with her child/ren in a family room setting. The mother and child/ren can read stories, play games, have snacks, and spend special time together. The opportunity to create and nuture this bond is important to the emotional well-being of mother and children, leads to successful reconnections upon the mother's release, and provides a powerful motivation for the mother to stay on a good track while incarcerated and then to be successful upon re-entry.
The women who have participated in the Family Preservation Program are significantly less likely to re-offend than women who have not. I once heard a statistic from a former superintendent at IWP that goes like this: 60% of all offenders will re-offend, 40% of women will re-offend, 27% of women at IWP will re-offend and only 9% of the women who participate in Family Preservation will re-offend. I cannot verify if those statistics from ten years ago still hold true. I can tell you the pattern is likely to be very consistent.
Women's Fund is proud to be a part of helping the women at Indiana Women's Prison stay connected to their families and prepare for successful re-entry.
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