In the first year following their release, female prisoners contend with various challenges that make it hard to reintegrate into society. An American Psychological Association (APA) article on incarcerated women explains how these individuals often encounter barriers when accessing housing, higher education, and healthcare services, among other essential help. In addition, another goal that’s proven hard to meet is addressing risks associated with avoiding recidivism, including antisocial behavior or PTSD. Facing such obstacles after incarceration without support can be distressing for women, especially those who have the added responsibility of motherhood. Without the proper assistance, recent reports show that formerly incarcerated women have a 58% chance of re-offending three years after their release. That being said, this article will touch on the ways in which women can be supported after incarceration, and, consequently, allow them to pursue better outcomes.
Encourage their participation in faith-strengthening programs
Women can find it difficult to find their footing after incarceration, especially when plagued with uncertainties on how to go about their future. For that reason, numerous communities are attempting to build back women upon release. One way this has been accomplished is by encouraging them to participate in faith-strengthening programs. Take, for example, the series of impactful webinars sponsored by Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century that seeks to lessen the guilt and shame felt by women after incarceration. Through testimony-sharing and meaningful conversations centered on faith, these webinars motivate individuals to overcome the burden of their crimes. In doing so, women can more confidently establish their identities away from their past. Alternatively, there are also organizations that offer faith-based guidance that enables individuals to heal from past traumas. This is why we center our re-entry program on how women can establish a relationship with Jesus, and use that to bolster their capacity to pursue individual goals.
Connect them with social workers for housing and employment
After incarceration, women can face unstable living conditions. Data from a Health & Justice study on incarcerated women shows that the struggle to find and maintain employment and housing has increased their need for assigned social workers. This is because this particular formal support can help smoothen their living situations after release. Social workers are trained to identify the needs of their clients, and, consequently, coordinate with service providers such as nonprofits to provide women with safe housing options and employment opportunities. As it stands, there are numerous nonprofits that direct women to said resources after incarceration. At This is The Living Ministries, for example, we assist women in obtaining permanent and affordable housing upon completing our Christ-Centered Re-Entry Program.
Provide women with diverse mental health services
Having a positive mental well-being is crucial for women to build successful and meaningful lives after prison. But the referenced Health & Justice study shares that incarcerated women can suffer significantly from mental health conditions. This is why there’s an increasing demand for psychologists to be well-versed in prison-based mental health care. Specifically, this means understanding that women contend with difficulties caused by addiction and childhood trauma. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of forensic psychologists who are able to work in the prison system to provide therapy and assessment for inmates. This is because more universities are offering dedicated courses in forensic psychology both at a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate level. These forensic psychology programs are designed to meet American Psychological Association standards so they can work in the correction and probation sectors. That said, the above APA article shows how more and more re-entry programs are working with psychologists who can offer different rehabilitation treatments. Alongside providing access to the right medication and utilizing mindfulness-based therapy, many psychologists have also started to teach women how to use smartphones and subway metro cards. These are meant to bolster their mental well-being and self-confidence.
Offer financial support for the pursuit of higher education
Pursuing higher education is a step that can benefit women after a life in prison. After all, many who are incarcerated were unable to pursue their education behind bars. That said, those who are financially unstable can find it difficult to do so even after release. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to ensure that women are equipped to pursue their desired learning opportunities. Our previous post ‘Higher Education After Incarceration’ discussed how ex-offenders can enlist help from Pell Grants, which is one of the most popular financial aid plans in the country. As of 2022, this specific grant can provide women with up to $6,495 in funding per year. Apart from federal student aids, another viable option that can cover degree costs is a private scholarship. Currently, there are various programs that are geared toward helping women further their education. If an individual served time in the Rhode Island Department of Corrections facility, for instance, they’re eligible to receive $1,000 from the Transcending Through Education Foundation Scholarship. Considering these options, the chance of pursuing higher education is certainly within reach for women after incarceration. For women without the right support, the effects of incarceration can make freedom feel just as limiting. This makes it all the more essential to equip such individuals with the resources they need to lead happy and healthy lives. Apart from connecting them with the above services and tools, volunteering and helping organize worship events at This is The Living Ministries is also a great way to showcase support.
Article written by Roseanne Joneson