Debbie Dickson had planned to leave an Arizona prison and resume passing bad checks and using drugs. Dickson, 45, actually has a job after prison and is raising a 4-year-old grandson, says the Arizona Republic.
Credit goes to a program called Women Living Free that works with female inmates a year before they are released. The program provides transitional housing, clothing, and support services for two years. Women Living Free is expanding this month to Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail.
Tracy Barsolo, who founded the program in 2001 and is president of Community Re-Entry Solutions, said women must forgive themselves and release their pasts to move forward. Many women end up back behind bars because of barriers finding jobs and safe housing without a support system, said Barsolo, a former inmate and crack addict.
Nationwide, three out of five women are re-arrested within three years of their release. In Arizona, 16 percent of released women return to prison for a new felony conviction within three years. Two of three women behind bars in Arizona are there because they violated the terms of probation or parole, not because of a new crime.
Women Living Free teaches everything from grooming and yoga to employment readiness and financial literacy. So far, 47 women have entered the program. All have been victims of domestic violence. Twenty-three are still behind bars. Of the 24 released, none has re-offended.