Through its programs, Center For Community Justice holds offenders accountable for their past actions, while giving them the opportunity to be actively involved in making things right with their victims, their community and themselves. It has been shown that by giving people the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and involving them in repairing the harm they caused, fractured lives are restored. The realization of this goal creates a safer and more just community.
Transitioning from prison life to real life can be a source of fear and anxiety for many former inmates. The Center for Community Justice helps Elkhart County residents who are going through this change.
Don French, Transitional Coaching Program coordinator at Center for Community Justice
Posted on Aug. 5, 2014 at 11:50 a.m.
She sits alone in the exercise yard and contemplates what it will be like. In ten days, six hours, and twenty-four minutes she will be “free.” Four years ago this day seemed a lifetime away. But now, it approaches like an unrelenting storm. Over the past four years she has learned to survive life in prison. Just do what you are told to do. Don’t make waves. Don’t look for trouble. Keep your eyes open and your head down.
Ten days, six hours, and twenty-two minutes to go. The thoughts and questions race through her mind as that day draws near. She declares, with as much confidence as she can muster, “I can do this! This time it will be different. This time I am different.” But the voice within is not so confident. The fear of the unknown is like a fog that settles in on a cold September morning. Will this time be different? Is she different? What about the people back home? What about her children? When will she get to see them? Will they remember her?
Through its programs, Center For Community Justice holds offenders accountable for their past actions, while giving them the opportunity to be actively involved in making things right with their victims, their community and themselves.
Ten days, six hours, and five minutes to go. Every unanswered question increases her level of anxiety. Those around her are not much help. There are a few who are of like mind, since they too will soon be released. But the others, those whose day of “freedom” is nowhere in sight, they assure her that she will be back. There is no doubt in their minds that within a year, maybe two, she will be back. She curses them for their words, but in her mind she prays they are not prophesying her destiny. Ten days, five hours, and thirty-five minutes to go.
As of May 1, 2014, there were 2,802 women serving sentences with the Indiana Department of Corrections. That means that the scenario depicted above, or one quite similar to it, will be replicated roughly 2,662 times – as 95 percent of all incarcerated individuals will eventually return to the community. The vast majority of incarcerated women are single mothers. They have experienced abuse, in one or more ways as a child and/or as an adult. Historically, they have struggled with alcohol and/or narcotic addictions. The majority of relationships in their lives have been a series of dashed hopes, broken promises and unrestrained violence. The ability to survive was learned long before life in prison. Yet, these women desperately desire a life that is beyond just surviving – if such a life exists.
A significant number of these women will be returning to Elkhart County. When they do, what will they find? Will they find housing that is stable and safe? Will they find employers who are willing to give them a chance? Will they find the support they need to navigate the terrain of reentry? Will they find a community that refuses to define them by their pasts and will assist them in redefining themselves as the valuable assets they are? Or will they be stereotyped, marginalized and forgotten; relegated to returning to old relationships, old habits and eventually back to prison? Ten days, two hours, and ten minutes to go . . .