Thursday, January 27, 2011

Prison Industry or Modern Slavery? posted an excellent article on prison industries (the practice of private businesses contracting, or outsourcing some of their work to prisons). Prisoners are paid ten or twenty cents an hour so they can purchase food items and other necessities from the prison canteen (items priced way above the amount charged in regular stores).

Companies like Procter and Gamble, Kroger's, and Nestles find it cheaper to pay prisoners than free citizens or to oursource to foreign countries. The author asks, "Can a 'Just Society' ever allow a profit to be gained from the imprisonment of its citizenry?"


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Read The Women of Block 12: Voices from a Jail Ministry
more information about women in prison
and one woman's experience answering "411" calls from a California prison facility.

Now on Kindle

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guest Blogger Joy - Update

As I come to the end of my sentence, (16 days left on the bracelet) I can't help but look back and think of a time in my life where I was lying in a hospital bed as a result of trying to take my own life. I felt helpless, hopeless, and just beaten down. I had let society tell me who I was (an ex-offender and felon who didn't deserve a second chance or even a job).

I opened my eyes to see a woman who has not only become my friend and mentor, but a mother figure. Through her, God revealed His love for me. This woman was Linda. No matter what bad choices I made in my past, she never gave up on me.

She said that she loved me and she believed in me and she also quoted a famous line from Joyce Meyer, "Are you gonna be "Pitiful or Powerful?"

That's what I love most about Linda. She doesn't pull any punches. . . she challenges me to be all that God created me to be, and I realized, at that moment, she was right. Was I gonna let this world tell me who I was by the bad choices I made or was I gonna fight and prove them wrong?

After I got out of the hospital, I continued to look for a job. One day, Linda call and told me the place she worked was going to give me a chance in the housekeeping and laundry department.

I am so grateful for that job. I have now been working there for a year and I want to thank Harry S. for the opportunity to work for him. I also want to thank the management and all of my coworkers for their encouragement and support, for not judging me, and for accepting me for who I am. And to my friend, Linda. . . I love you and I would not be where I am today had you not pushed or challenged me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I used to think I had to barter, plead, or try hard to earn the Lord's favor, but as the prodigal son learned, the Father's love is unconditional. A love based on conduct would keep people guessing, "Have I done enough?" Instead, God cares for you SIMPLY because you're you and He expects nothing in return.

When God looks at His loved ones, He doesn't focus on past failures, faults or sins. He see's the heirs to His kingdom - men and women who love Him and desire to spend eternity in His presence. No matter how far we may wander from the Lord's perfect will for our lives, we are always welcome back.

The Bible teaches God's love cannot be lost, regardless of sin or poor decisions (though we may have to live with the consequences). Our Father's arms are always open, and I just want to thank Him for that. I am looking forward to putting this all behind me and moving on with God's perfect will for my life.

Editor's note: I love you too, Joy!
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Criminalizing Homelessness

Paul Boden, Organizing Director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) wrote an article on January 20th for the Huffington Post titled "It's Crazy to Criminalize Homelessness."

Mr. Boden gave the following information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • 64% of people in jails, nationwide, have mental health problems.
  • 16-30% have severe mental illness.
  • 40% of those with severe mental illness have been imprisoned at some point in their lives.
  • 90% of those incarcerated with a mental illness have been incarcerated more than once - 30% have been incarcerated ten times or more.

The article states, "We at WRAP see this ever-increasing incarceration of mentally ill people as part of a trend toward using the criminal justice system to address health and socioeconomic needs."

The Western Region Advocacy Project is currently conducting outreach to mentally ill individuals, service providers, justice system employees, lawyers and researchers. For readers who are interested in learning more this outreach and participating in a nationwide survey of self-identified mentally ill homeless people visit the WRAP website.

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For more information about mental illness and incarcerated women visit my website: The Women of Block 12.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011


This week, I discovered a website:

The creator of this clever site is a jail sergeant (go figure) and he offers a very interesting mix of information for jail and prison officers, former inmates, and the general public. You could spend a whole lot of time there reading articles and connecting to other links with corrections related topics.
  • Some of my personal favorites are the prison artwork and inmate stories. In fact, inmates and former inmates are encouraged to send their stories, and art to the site for publication. Check it out.
The very best thing about Jail is that he was kind enough to post a picture of my book cover and a link to The Women of Block 12.
Thank you officer!
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Saturday, January 15, 2011


Traditionally there are more men than women in prisons and jails. Since 1985, however, the population of female prisoners in the U.S. has increased at double the rate of men. This is due, in part, to the "war on drugs" policies adopted during the later part of the last century.

Despite the increase of women inmates, correctional facilities have not always recognized the gender-specific needs of women. In a recent article by Alyson R. Quinn, "Can't Do It on My Own: When Women Go to Prison," the author describes some of these needs.

  • Women prisoners are more likely to have experienced physical and sexual trauma.
  • Women inmates have more conflict with each other due to poor role models and negative childhood relationships and are, therefore, more difficult to care for in the prison system.
  • Women inmates have a 20 per cent higher rate of mental health problems.
  • Six per cent of women enter prison pregnant.
  • Over half of all women behind bars have minor children.

All of these factors add to the complex nature of caring for women offenders. While many correctional facilities are beginning to develop programing for women, there is still much work to be done. Prison ministries can help to address the needs of women inmates through mentoring programs, Bible studies, 1:1 visits, letter writing, and after-care support.

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Visit: The Women of Block 12 for more information.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

X Offender Success Spot

I ran across this new blog by Susan L. Fisher a Criminal Justice and Mental Health professional whose goal is to help people with a criminal record "acheive their goals and dreams" Her most recent post talks about understanding Wisconsin law as it relates to employment hiring practices. Visit Susan at: X Offender Success Spot.

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Visit my website: The Women of Block 12 for more information on helping ex-offenders.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Prison Pet Partnership Program

Rewarding for all parties involved. . .

Guest Blogger, Gerald Arnolds is a writer in Seattle, Washington. .

The Prison Pet Partnership Program is a nonprofit organization and program operating from the grounds of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington. The program seeks to achieve two major goals, as per its mission statement: to rescue and train homeless animals into service dogs, which then become companions for disabled individuals who need them, and to give female inmates job training opportunities which will give them the experience they need to enter the boarding, grooming, and pet care industries after being released from prison.

To do this, the program works to find potential service dogs through local shelters, then works to find matches with disabled individuals. Dogs who cannot do service work find homes and become therapy animals, and dogs who show a talent for it can be come law enforcement animals working in drug detection and other fields. Dogs spend their time in the program living closely with the inmates who provide training, care and shelter, and inmates can finish the program as certified Pet Care Technicians over the minimum two-year period.

At its core, what makes the Prison Pet Partnership Program work is the mutually beneficial relationship between animals, inmates and the dogs' long-term recipients. The process of producing a service dog is an intense, time consuming and expensive one: the average cost of training is $10,000 for each dong, spent over the course of eight months, and the success rate is not high; only one out of every 15-20 dogs chosen ultimately proves capable of functioning as a service dog (the other animals then become pets).

By creating an outlet for this work for individuals who otherwise would have greatly diminished opportunities as a consequence of their incarceration, the program helps to rehabilitate both female inmates and dogs who would have been at the mercy of the shelter system (and likely at risk of being put down unless adopted by an individual). It also helps to make the dogs more available to the people who need them, who may otherwise be unable to find a service animal capable of completing the tasks they require in order to maintain independence.

The program was founded in 1981 by Sister Pauline and former Washington State University veterinary chair, Dr. Leo Bustad, who sought to use human-animal interaction as an aspect of the rehabilitation process for inmates. The organization is funded partially through the Department of Corrections, but receives most of its funding from local foundations, animal welfare groups, and donors.

The program also runs a boarding and grooming service for the surrounding area, which helps to produce money for support. Volunteers work with the animals on a regular basis to get them accustomed to accompanying the people they will go on to serve and training dogs to move in all sorts of areas that they wouldn't normally be required to move through. The Prison Pet Partnership Program is a program doing something right, helping one of America's most stigmatized populations do good in what can be an extremely difficult situation to recover from.

Friday, January 7, 2011

ADHD and Prisoners

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006:
More than half of inmates in prisons and jails
suffer from mental illness.
A recent study of 315 male inmates at the Norrtalje prison in Sweden discovered that as many as 40 percent suffered from undiagnosed and untreated ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). All participants with the disorder had struggled with drugs. Other psychiatric illnesses common to the group included autism and personality disorders.

Psychiatrist Yiva Ginsberg, doctoral student in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience said, "Given the threat that untreated ADHD poses to the individual and the community, it's imperative that the prison and probations services learn more about the condition."

See the entire article: High Rate of Untreated ADHD in Swedish Prisons by Traci Pedersen, Associate News Editor Psych Central.

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Read more about offenders and mental illness in my new book:

The Women of Block: Voices from a Jail Ministry.
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