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Formerly Incarcerated Women Can Thrive Through ARC 
By Bonnie Boswell  Contributing Writer 
Published May 19, 2022

Bonnie Boswell (Courtesy photo)

 

“I won him!”  Those were words shared with me by a young mother who had been fighting to regain custody of her son for four years. For the past few weeks, Bonnie Boswell Reports has been telling the story of this formerly incarcerated woman who rebuilt her life to regain her 6-year-old son.  

She had a tough, but heroic journey. After her release from jail, this young lady found an apartment through the Brilliant Corners housing agency. But to continue stabilizing her life, she turned to the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) in downtown Los Angeles.  

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ARC provided her with vocational training, personal counseling, and certification to become a substance abuse counselor. She got a car, a job, and opened a college fund for her son.  Still, the court turned down her appeal multiple times.  

ARC’s executive director, Sam Lewis became her mentor.  His constant advice: “patience and prayer.” But Sam also took action. “It just didn’t seem like she was getting a fair shake,” he said. So, Sam and others at ARC worked to provide the necessary legal support.  And she won her custody battle—finally.  But not every mother who has been behind bars is so fortunate.  

The Prison Policy Initiative reports this past Mothers’ Day (2022), 150,000 mothers were in jail in the United States.  Over 58% of the women in prisons are mothers; 80% are in jail awaiting trial because they can’t afford bail.   

The same report estimates that every year, 58,000 women are pregnant when they become incarcerated. And while the U.S. Department of Labor has announced new funding for formerly incarcerated people, it is important that attention be paid specifically to the issues of women.  

Research from the Justice Quarterly suggest poverty, substance abuse and past victimization disproportionately affect women. Women are often the primary caretakers of their children. Parental incarceration has a profound effect on children, including lower educational achievement, more mental health problems such as fear, anxiety, anger and depression.  

When the mother is justice system impacted, the whole family is impacted. Fortunately, there are encouraging examples, like the one above, of how to help formerly incarcerated women thrive.  

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There need to be more like it. Watch “Challenging Recidivism” on Bonnie Boswell Reports, Fridays at 2:58p on KCET and kcet.org/bonnie  

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