A nonprofit organization is working to help women turn their lives around after serving time.
The Prison Fellowship Academy said approximately 10,000 women walked out of Oklahoma prisons last year, many of them struggling to integrate into society while facing unique challenges.
“I was incarcerated. I was a drug addict for several years which landed me in prison,” Ashley Hale said.
She said she spent years behind bars for a drug offense, something the Prison Fellowship Academy said is common in Oklahoma.
“In Oklahoma you more often see people respond to crime with prison than with an alternative. What you see especially among women are a lot of people in prison for lower-level offenses, drug offenses and things like that that you don’t see in other states,” Kate Trammell, the Director of Policy and Research for the Prison Fellowship Academy said.
Trammell said 50% of the population of women behind bars are parents and this not only has lasting effects on the women themselves but their families.
“Parental incarceration has huge impacts on a young person’s success in school, their long-term economic earnings and opportunity,” Trammell said.
Making transitional programs, like the Prison Fellowship Academy, pivotal to the newly released women.
“It’s such a challenging thing when you’re trying to find ID, pay off fines, stay away from crime, and find a job. Women really have some unique burdens to carry,” Trammell said.
Hale started the one-year program while in prison and was able to finish it once she got out.
“Living in a community, working through conflict resolution, boundaries and all of the things that are crucial to a successful life,” she said.
Women who are interested should contact their warden and fill out an application.
“Whenever I needed help, they were there for me and they have walked me through many life goals setting them and achieving them,” Hale said.
This program is available to women in Oklahoma state facilities and will soon be available to those incarcerated in federal facilities.