Community Figures to Speak Out at Re:Entry Summit

Re-Entry Summit Logo

The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit is almost here! We’ve told you about the impactful speakers from out of state coming September 30th to speak about the lasting impact prison has on women and how limited resources prevents successful re-entry for many. The conference will also feature many accomplished local figures including Texas State Senator John Whitmire, Judge Denise Bradley, Judge Angela Ellis, Judge Vanessa Gilmore and Texas House of Representatives member Senfronia Thompson.

whitmire john pg Senator John Whitmire represents the 15th Senatorial District in Texas, which includes North Houston and parts of Harris County. Elected in 1982, Senator Whitmire is the senior most member of the Texas Senate and is the “Dean of the Texas Senate. He serves as the Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and works to bring about needed changes to the adult and juvenile justice systems. He also Chairs the School Discipline Consensus Project, where leaders nationwide work together developing strategies to minimize the over-use of suspension and expulsion in public schools, improve students’ academic outcomes, reduce the referral to the juvenile justice system, and promote safe and productive learning environments. Senator Whitmire will deliver a noontime keynote speech to Summit Attendees.
denise bradley again Judge Denise Bradley currently serves as the Judge of the Texas 262nd Criminal District Court and presides over one of the Harris County Success Through Addiction Recover (STAR) courts. The STAR courts work with non-violent offenders struggling with addiction, giving them in-patient drug treatment, transitional housing and job training in an effort to keep them from returning to the criminal justice system. Judge Bradley also serves on the Specialty Courts Advisory Council. The council evaluates applications for grant funding for the therapeutic courts in Texas. A graduate of South Texas College of Law, before her election to the 262nd Criminal District Court Judge Bradley worked in the Trial Bureau and served as the Chief of the 177th and 185th District Courts. She also worked as the gang prosecutor and was assigned to the Major Offenders Division where she worked closely with the cold case squads of various law enforcement agencies.
b2ap3_thumbnail_Angela-Ellis-Cropped.jpg Judge Angela Ellis is an associate judge of the 315th District Court. She is juvenile court judge who hears child welfare, juvenile justice cases, and requests for special immigrant juvenile status for undocumented children. She is also involved in the Growing Independence Restoring Lives (GIRLs) Court, a human trafficking treatment court for minors who have been victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. Before becoming an associate judge in 2009, Judge Ellis served as a lawyer after earning her law degree at South Texas College of Law.
Judge Photo 2 Judge Vanessa Gilmore was the youngest sitting federal judge in the nation when she was first sworn in in 1994. The University of Houston Law Center graduate specialized in civil litigation during her 13 tenure with Vickery Killbride, Gillmore and Vickery Law firm. Judge Gillmore has also been widely active in the Houston community, serving on several boards including a term as president of the YWCA of Houston. She was the first African America person to serve on the Texas Department of Commerce Policy Board, which is dedicated to developing job training, increasing business and promoting tourism in Texas. Judge Gilmore is the co- author of “A Boy Named Rocky”, a book for the children of incarcerated parents and is a frequent speaker on issues related to these children and their families. She has worked on initiatives to help these families with access to resources for their children, including the development of a legal clinic at Texas Southern University.
SENFRONIA A closing speech will be given by Texas House of Representatives member Senfronia Thompson, who has represented district 141, comprised of northeast Houston and the Humble, area since 1973. A graduate of Texas Southern University, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and University of Houston, Thompson served as the Dean of Women Legislators, and chairs the Women’s Health Caucus. She co-chairs the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking. In her career Rep. Thompson has been an advocate for child support enforcement, legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, and legislation combatting human trafficking.

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear these local figures speak on the impact of incarceration on the lives of women. Click here to learn more about the Re:Entry Summit and to purchase your ticket.

Bringing Faith Communities Together

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC05223Attendees on a tour of Jane Cizik Garden Place with Development Director, Marcia Tapp

On Thursday September 17, 2015, representatives from 17 different faith organizations across Houston gathered at Jane Cizik Garden Place to learn about The Women’s Home mission and need for volunteer involvement. The open house attendees included board members Bob Dyer and Lynda Hancock, as well as representatives from Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Martin’s Episcopal, Memorial Drive United Methodist, First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Windsor Village, Terrace United Methodist Church, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Texas Impact, Institute for Spirituality and Health, Mercy Street, Portal Houston, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Compassionate Houston, and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

Churches and faith communities have long been essential to The Women’s Home’s success. The open house was held both to honor congregations’ role in The Women’s Home’s mission, as well as to discuss ways churches and other faith communities could get even more involved. The Women’s Home’s Executive Director, Paula Paust, introduced guests to The Home’s WholeLife® model of care and how the six aspects of wellness inform all of the programs clients receive. Paula went on to introduce attendees to The Women’s Home’s expansion in Spring Branch, where a second 84 unit supportive housing facility for women and families as well as a WholeLife Service Center is being built. Board member Bob Dyer followed Paula and recounted his own personal journey to find a fulfilling opportunity to give back to the community in his retirement. He sought an organization that was cost effective in its operations, showed focus in its mission and impact, and had a need for the skills he possessed. In the end he was caught by surprise when The Women’s Home approached him and it turned out to be the perfect fit.

Chris Hammond, Manager of Volunteer Services, concluded the brief presentation by elaborating on the volunteer needs of The Home, highlighting its spirituality programs, The Courage to Search and The Search Continues, and the need for spiritual companions to provide support and comradery for residents interested in developing their spirituality. Development Director Marcia Tapp then lead a tour of the facilities, highlighting how features like two on-site case managers, a secure campus, on-site fitness facilities, a computer lab, and a meditation labyrinth all incorporate the WholeLife program into life at Jane Cizik.

Thank you to everyone who attended our congregational open house, we’re excited to have these passionate organizations interested in The Women’s Home and look forward to developing new relationships in the future.

If your congregation or faith group was unable to attend the open house, but wants to learn more about getting involved with The Home, please contact us at volunteer@thewomenshome.org.

Appreciating the Importance of Recovery

b2ap3_thumbnail_RM-2015-Logos-343x94September is National Recovery Month, a time to raise awareness of the positive impact support services and treatment can have on those suffering from addiction or mental health disorders. National Recovery Month began in 1989 as Treatment Works! Month, a way to honor the efforts of treatment professionals who support and guide those working through addiction on their journey to recovery. Today National Recovery Month has evolved to include mental illness and encourage us to raise awareness and educate ourselves on the need for strong programs and resources for those in need in our communities.

Here at The Women’s Home, Recovery Month reminds us of the importance of the work we do to ensure we’re always providing programs informed by best practices and the latest research on recovery and wellness. The foundation of all our services, the WholeLife® Program, was developed using the latest research on successful long term recovery and encompasses all aspects of a person’s wellbeing. This complete support of mind, body and spirit would not be possible without the support and collaborations with our friends and partners in the community. Ensuring that our residents are given the best tools to lead a whole life means providing shame resilience training through our Brené Brown certified clinical staff who lead clients through Brown’s The Daring Way™. It means offering residents seeking spiritual growth the support of dedicated trained volunteers in our The Courage to Search and The Search Continues. It means creating partnerships with organizations like The Women’s Fund and Dress for Success for financial and professional trainings.

 

Providing the best care possible also means studying the needs here in Houston, a path which led to the development of our current construction projects The WholeLife Service Center and a second housing complex for women and families. These new facilities will expand our services to not only providing support and treatment for those in recovery, but also providing resources that can prevent the crisis situations that leave people vulnerable to mental illness and addiction.

The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit Seeks to Empower and Educate

Re-Entry Summit LogoTexas has the largest prison populations in the United States. In 2014, 12,214 of those incarcerated were women, and of those women, 8,550 served a previous sentence. Ex-offenders face a multitude of legal and social barriers that inhibit them from successfully re-entering society. A study by the Legal Action Center found that Texas has over 32 different laws restricting released prisoners, ranging from employment policies to limitations on public assistance. These barriers increase the likelihood of relapse and recidivism among individuals with criminal records. One in five women released in Harris County will receive insufficient support in overcoming these barriers.

While post-release reintegration is difficult for anyone, women face unique challenges that are often overlooked and lead to unmet needs. Female offenders are more prone to addiction, mental illness, low self-esteem, lack of job skills or experience and homelessness than their male counterparts. Women out of prison also face additional challenges in finding employment: many second-chance jobs are primarily manual labor and involve time commitments that conflict with childcare responsibilities.

The Women’s Home, with funding from the Texas Bar Foundation, will host a summit September 30 addressing the challenges women transitioning from prison to society face.

The summit will take place at United Way Houston and feature panel discussions and breakout sessions with national and local experts addressing the challenges women face before, during and after their experience with the prison system. Subjects covered will include behavioral health, law and policy making, as well as housing and employment barriers.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Mary D. Looman and Dr. John D. Carl, the authors of A Country Called Prison and Dr. Andrea M. Leverentz, author of The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Drs. Looman and Carl propose that prison is a culture that begins with disadvantaged, abusive and neglected childhoods setting up an entire segment of the population to become duel citizens who struggle between U.S. societal norms and a country called prison. A Country Called Prison offers pragmatic and economical suggestions to reform the prison system and address the incarceration epidemic in America.

Dr. Leverentz offers an in-depth, firsthand look at the former prisoner’s experience reentering American society in The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Through a series of interviews with forty-nine women, Dr. Andrea Leverentz reveals how the formerly incarcerated attempt to navigate and reconstruct their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters, romantic partners, friends, students and workers. The book depicts the precariousness of reentry for women in light of public policy, a primary focus on male prisoners, and the way society views the formerly incarcerated.

The Houston area has not seen an event of this nature since 2008, making this a great opportunity to bring our community together and advocate on behalf of female ex-offenders.  By educating our community, we hope to create better opportunities for women as they re-enter society, helping to keep them from experiencing homelessness or further incarceration.

Click here to register online for the summit

For more information about the summit, contact Marcia Tapp at 713.328.1975 or at mtapp@thewomenshome.org.