100 Women Attend “Lifetime Makeover” Forum Assisting Women Returning from Prison
Washington, DC – More than 100 women attended a public symposium last weekend geared toward empowering and motivating women to rebuild their lives after returning home to the District of Columbia from prison or jail.
The Women’s Reentry Forum is an annual event begun several years ago by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). This year’s program was a joint effort co-sponsored by CSOSA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Our Place, DC, and DC Healthy Start Consortium, Inc., in addition to the U.S. Parole Commission. Numerous other community service organizations also participated.
“We at the Commission were glad to collaborate in the Women’s Reentry Forum, as we did last year,” said Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Chairman of the Parole Commission. “I am firmly of the belief that we are all connected. In this effort to reduce recidivism and effect positive change, the success of the Commission and our partners is inextricably tied to the success of these women as they reenter the community. The tools and the information provided at this forum, along with the close supervision of CSOSA, are just what is needed for the ladies to press forward and be successful. I wish them well.”
Hundreds of women have returned to the community in recent years after serving prison time. In 2009, for example, more than 200 women returned home from prison under CSOSA’s supervision.
“Women returning home face special challenges, and this event was an important opportunity to pull together as a community to help them succeed,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.
“For example,” Parole Commissioner Patricia W. Smoot notes, “besides needing a job when they return from prison, they often have childcare responsibilities too.” Adds Parole Commissioner Patricia K. Cushwa, “They have fewer programming opportunities than male prisoners, and often return with fewer job skills. We are realizing that they often don’t get the programs needed before and after release.”
The reentry program, entitled “Lifetime Makeover: Stepping In, Stepping Out and Stepping Up,” took place on Saturday, February 11, 2012, at Temple of Praise Church, 700 Southern Avenue SE. The forum served a twofold purpose: educating the broader community on the importance of supporting reentry efforts, and providing access to the resources women need to reenter society. Noted U.S. Attorney Machen, “Our public safety depends on giving former offenders the support they need to get back on the right track when they return home from prison.”
The symposium featured panel discussions on housing, employment, life skills/mentoring support, drug treatment/addiction recovery, and building healthy relationships. Speakers included people who supervise and work with female ex-offenders, as well as women who are successfully making the transition. Many panels showcased success stories and first-person accounts from the returnees themselves.
“What was most touching for me, personally, were the stories of these women regarding their initial struggles,” said Cushwa, adding, “When I heard how these smart and savvy women managed to overcome so many reentry obstacles, I wanted to stand up and cheer. They are teaching us what other women need to succeed.”
The day culminated with a “Lifetime Makeover” fashion show in which 24 returning women modeled professional attire and make-up. The show was possible because of a drive at CSOSA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as the Parole Commission, that garnered hundreds of donated suits and shoes in all sizes and styles. Volunteers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and CSOSA personally provided styling and make-up application to prepare the women for the show. The make-overs were dramatic, inside and out, as the women were uplifted and encouraged during the process. The women were able to see themselves in a new light after experiencing the transformation. The Lifetime Makeover women walked with a brand new look and outlook on their lives that was evident for all to see.
“We at CSOSA are grateful for the collaboration with our criminal justice and community partners that enabled our Women’s Reentry Program to be a great success,” said Nancy M. Ware, director of CSOSA. “We were able to provide the women in attendance with helpful information about job retention, housing, drug treatment and recovery, and healthy relationships. The women left the event with some of the tools they need to begin their ‘Lifetime Makeover.’ As they go forward in their journey, we will continue to assist and support them in overcoming the challenges they face.”
For more information, please call Johanna Markind at (202) 346-7036.