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October 28, 2015

Craine House provides hope to nonviolent female offenders

by Kelly Young

Written by Kelly R. Young, Communications Consultant for Women's Fund

Last week, Women’s Fund hosted a site visit to Craine House – a place that offers opportunities and hope to nonviolent female offenders and their young children ages five and under. Women with substance abuse issues, drugs, theft, probation violation; women who have been previously incarcerated; women on work release – these women are turning their lives around with help from Craine House. This alternative sentencing program allows young children to live with their mothers – it’s one of only six such programs in the country and the only one in the Midwest.

During our visit we were joined by Suzanne Pierce, executive director, and Charlotte Pontius, program director, who talked to us about the organization and its programs. On our guided tour we also met a few of the women living there who shared with us that Craine House is a better alternative to prison. As one woman shared with us: “I feel very blessed to be here. If not here, I would be pregnant sitting in a jail cell.” Her baby is due in January. She came to Craine House from the Indiana Department of Corrections.

During the tour, Suzanne shared with me that many of these women have simply made bad choices – some of them grew up not knowing any better. She talked about one woman who was not only doing drugs with her dad at the age of 13, but also carrying drugs for him. Another woman was in and out of trouble for nearly a decade before a drug conviction landed her in the Indiana Women’s Prison.

Craine House offers structure and guidance with individualized goals for each of the women. Craine House offers a variety of programs and professional services to better serve each woman’s needs: parenting, high school equivalency classes, tutoring, health and nutrition, substance abuse programs, employment resources, financial and job skills classes, anger management, and more. According to the Suzanne, “Craine House isn’t easy – but neither is real life. We have the ability to help these women succeed and we want each one of them to become successful.”

I was interested to hear that children of offenders are five times more likely to become victims or perpetrators of domestic violence and much more likely to commit violent crime. Craine House uses the mother and child bond to break the cycle of abuse, poverty and crime and keep it from being continued through future generations.

Craine House started in 1978. Over the past few years it has moved from a small house to a large facility that can hold approximately 40 women and their children. Women’s Fund of Central Indiana has supported the agency and its programs through eight grants totaling $100,000.

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