I was happy to see the National H.I.R.E. Network devoted its 5th Annual Policy Conference last week to one of the most overlooked groups of ex-offenders.
You guessed it – women.
The advocacy organization, which is dedicated to helping individuals with criminal records, focused some much needed attention on the fact that , as I’ve noted, women face unique challenges in starting over after incarceration. At the same time, most reentry programs and efforts are devoted to the needs of the men. There’s a lack of understanding about the female experience behind bars, as well as what their needs are after release. There’s also a stigma.
I also think H.I.R.E. came up with some interesting recommendations for change:
- Improved discharge planning, including reinstating Medicaid and obtaining a state identification card and birth certificate prior to release.
- More higher education opportunities for women.
- Placement for mothers within reasonable distance from children to encourage visitation.
- Improved medical and psychiatric care, and an increase in trauma-informed corrections and service provider staff.
- A shorter, less-invasive process for securing a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct.
- Improved communication between criminal and housing courts to reduce problems women have trying to reunite with their children upon reentry.
- More transitional and affordable housing; too often women manage to reunite with their children only to wind up in a shelter.
Readers, how about you? Are there any services you’ve seen that have helped women? Anything you would add?
By the way, you can more about the conference here.