At the Marlin Transfer Facility in Falls County, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is seeking to provide female inmates the tools needed to successfully reintegrate into society.
The new program – TDCJ’s first female pre-release program – which can handle 112 women, is currently serving 43. Twenty-eight inmates started in September while 15 are just beginning their journey. The first class is anticipated to wrap up in March, when the women will be transferred to another facility before being released. Their time served ranges from a few years to decades, so many lack the most basic skills to survive as a self-sufficient adult in the outside world.
We’ve written on other pre-release programs, such as the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, but more often than not these programs primarily serve men. Most cater to male inmates because the underlying problems that land women behind bars tend to vastly differ than those of males, so in order to truly tackle the issues these efforts need to be designed for the issues women face. With far fewer incarcerated females than males, most attention has been placed on pre-release male inmates.
TDCJ’s program revolves around six-months of training, and works with the female inmates to determine where they are with life skills and then builds off of that while helping them understand the choices that got them there in the first place.
During the six months they learn skills from finding and maintaining living arrangements, household management, budgeting, the job application process, and personal hygiene.
While the majority of those behind bars are men, between the years of 1980 and 2011 the number of incarcerated women grew at a rate 1.5x faster than men.
As we continue to move away from imprisoning people for longer than necessary, more inmates will need assistance readjusting to life on the outside. Since the problems that plague female former inmates are unique, more programs that cater to their needs should be encouraged.
Many females arrested admit to being addicted to either drugs or alcohol upon arrest, yet most are sentenced rather than treated. Programs such as this one offered by TDCJ, and Women in Recovery in Oklahoma, are targeting those problems that are specific to female inmates and hoping to provide an alternative life once released.