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Author Topic: Women's Treatment Center Keeps Inmates With Their Children  (Read 1892 times)

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Offline Forevermah

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Women's Treatment Center Keeps Inmates With Their Children
« on: June 08, 2011, 07:23:13 AM »
Women's Treatment Center keeps inmates with their children
By Shannon Heffernan Jun. 07, 2011

Last names and some faces withheld for privacy.

From the outside, you’d never guess that inmates lived at The Women’s Treatment Center. It’s right in the middle of Chicago on Lake and Ashland. There aren’t high walls or guard towers, and during the day, the doors aren’t even locked. The program, now in its eighth year, is an alternative for women who would otherwise live in prison. Instead, the women living at the center receive drug treatment while going to school or working.  But perhaps the most striking part of the program is that the women’s children can live here with them.

Loxie is a resident at the center, originally arrested for possession with intent to sell. She works an overnight shift at the CTA and spends her days in drug treatment and parenting classes. During the day her children attend a preschool inside the WTC. The preschool caters to children who’ve dealt with traumas such as witnessing a parents arrest or addictive behaviors, fitting with the WTC’s philosophy of comprehensive family treatment.

The family approach has worked well. Debbi Denning is the Coordinator of Women and Family Services for the Illinois Department of Corrections. She says the program’s recidivism rate for the last year is zero, while the recidivism rate for standard women’s prisons is around 50%.

For her, recovery programs like the Women’s Treatment Center, are an investment in public safety, she says, “ What you have to do is invest in the human being. If you don’t invest in the human being they could come out of prison being angry, being bitter, because they haven’t learned anything from their incarceration.”

Despite the program's success, the Women’s Treatment Center is the only one like it in Illinois. Denning says funding the program is part of the problem. State budget cuts have leveled many drug treatment programs and without strong treatment partners like the WTC, it is difficult to expand alternatives to incarceration programs.

Renee Lee, the director at Women’s Treatment Center says that pulling funding for treatment, while continuing to put drug offenders in prison, won’t save money in the long run. Programs like the one at the WTC have a similar per-resident cost to incarceration and because of the reduced recidivism rate, will save money overall.

According to Lee, part of the problem is that politicians are worried about appearing soft on crime.  As more decisions about criminal justice are made in the legislation and not the courtroom, approaches have become harsher.

Lee says, “From the conversations with participants, perception that it’s easy on crime far from truth. Often these women have not only done crimes, they’ve become dependent on society whether through family support, TANF, or social security. And here we are saying it’s time for you to empower yourself educationally and vocationally through work.”


listen to the story:

Do not value the "things" you have in your life - value "who" you have in your life....

“Instead of thinking about what you're missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.”

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