New program offers peer support to women transitioning out of prison

(Mark Humphrey/AP Photo)

(Mark Humphrey/AP Photo)

Transitioning out of prison is a difficult process, and for women, it can be even harder, especially with a lack of services geared specifically toward them.

“We know that re-entry is really hard — coming back to the community where kids may have been removed, where families may not have been able to have been supportive,” said Clarice Bailey, chief learning officer at Mental Health Partnerships (MHP), a peer-run, peer support organization in Philadelphia.

MHP recently received a $3 million grant to create a program that will offer peer support to women leaving prison. The three-year program will work with women at Philadelphia’s Riverside Correctional Facility.

The idea, she says, is simple: offer one-on-one peer support to a group of women who are getting ready to transition out of prison.

“You have women. They’re in jail. They’ve lost their kids. Everything is stacked up against them. Here’s a person that says, ‘hey I get you. I feel you. I’ve been there. I know what’s going on.’ ”

The program will specifically target women who struggle with a self-reported mental health condition, drugs and alcohol, and/or are facing housing insecurity. 

Additionally, the program will train a smaller group of women to become certified peer support specialists who will get a stipend to work inside prison walls.

Bailey says peer support will mean smoother transitions for women back into the community. The goal, she says, is to prevent homelessness and help women find work as they transition out of prison.

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