After reading the Miami Herald’s three-part series Beyond Punishment, some readers may be thinking, “How awful, but thank goodness it doesn’t affect me.”
In 2001, I would have thought the same way, but then I attended a performance for invited guests at Homestead Correctional Institution by participants of a program called “Inside/Out” facilitated by an arts-based nonprofit organization called ArtSpring.
What I witnessed in that performance triggered an intense chapter in my life of hands-on advocacy and activism on issues of juvenile and criminal justice reform issues for over five years that continues to inform my awareness of what can be done differently.
What The Herald’s reporting does not address, but I know from this work, is simple:
▪ Women are usually victims of violence or abuse that goes untreated and usually leads to substance abuse and brushes with the law.
▪ With limited internal system resources, these women’s trauma remains untreated and virtually ensures high rates of recidivism and continued substance abuse after their release.
▪ With limited external resources through foundations and faith-based organizations, programming for these women repeatedly encounters a culture within the Department of Corrections that is so unwelcoming and harsh that it would seem to indicate that the department solely wants to limit outsiders’ interactions lest they should see and speak the truth about the system’s failures.
Here’s a sobering reality: Upon serving their sentences, women are released with little to no support in transitioning back to their homes and neighborhoods with high barriers to access quality healthcare and finding gainful employment — once again, sadly, virtually assuring high rates of recidivism.
Gloria Romero Roses,