More and more women are being incarcerated into U.S. prison systems. The numbers are staggering! And many of these women are in prison for non-violent crimes, self-defense or for defending their children to abusive spouses. Most women that are incarcerated are mothers whose children are being cared for by either family members or state housing/foster homes.
What the majority of these incarcerated women want - is to be released from prison, return to their children, secure meaningful employment and to be a successful part of society. And this is extremely difficult to accomplish with over-crowded prisons, over-burdened justice systems and an increase in private prisons profiteering from the prison business.
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, is the National Women's Prison Project. Founded in 2003 by Alfreda A Robinson, an ex-incarcerated prisoner, the National Women's Prison Project was built to provide a system of support to women who have experienced the criminal justice system, built upon Ms. Robinson's first hand experience. Before incarceration, Alfreda was an educator in Baltimore city with a BA in Sociology, an MA in Counseling from John Hopkins University and a MA in Special Education. Charged for co-conspiracy
in her son's drug charge, Alfreda faced a 10 year prison sentence. Through her experience in prison, where Ms. Robinson lost her home, her job, her credibility as an educator, family members and self-esteem, she was forced to learn how to survive and overcome her anger at the justice system and at the lack of resources available for women as they reenter society.
“I cannot walk around allowing shame to limit or define my life's goals, nor can I allow it to shape other women’s goals as they try to start over. We must provide opportunities for them, their children and families, and our community at large. If you have ever made a mistake, would you not seek another chance?
The National Women's Prison Project approaches helping incarcerated women in a holistic view. The mission of the National Women's Prison Project is: to provide comprehension, holistic reentry / survival skills and services to women both inside or released from correctional facilities while embracing them with a high level of dignity and respect to fully and successfully engage in life. And the goal is: to provide women with assistance and supportive networking resources for a smooth transition and successful reintegration back into their families and the community.
Each women's training and support is individually based on their needs and includes goal setting, soft skills training, job readiness, anger management and parenting skills. Once the women are released from prison, they receive a "Plan of Success" packet that will help them achieve basics such as housing, employment, substance treatment referral and skills to cope with reentry with their family.
The National Women's Prison Project also runs a clothing donation center, so that women who are released from prison have access to warm jackets and modern work clothes.
They are also advocates for the "Stamp Out Loneliness" campaign, where individuals can donate something as simple as stamps, so that women can write letters to stay connected to family, friends and the outside world.
On May 13th, 2012, the National Women's Prison Project will be hosting a special luncheon for women living in transition housing in the Baltimore area. This special day is titled "Spirit of a Mother" and will be hosted to "Embrace the Spirit of Mother's"
Helping women released from prison a touch of hope, dignity and useful skills are the main mission and goal of the National Women's Prison Project.
To read more of the services that the National Women's Prison Project provides, please click here.