Texas 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.
For more information about the summit, contact Marcia Tapp at 713.328.1975 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.