Last month, 78 female parolees were given a chance to connect directly with gender-responsive services and treatment available to them in the Sacramento and surrounding areas. The event, hosted by the Northern Region Programs team from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO), was held at the Bayside Church Midtown Campus in Sacramento.
A total of 28 community program providers, including the Sacramento County Office of Education, First 5 California, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, attended the event to provide an overview of the services and programs they offer for women, and encouraged them to take advantage of these resources.
Besides linking services, gender-responsive resources are geared toward reducing female recidivism by addressing the unique experiences women encounter via their pathways into the criminal justice system. The goal is to promote successful reintegration by utilizing an approach which targets the specific risks and needs of female offenders.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections, there are a number of facts that a national profile of female offenders reveals. In general, they tend to:
- Disproportionately be women of color;
- Have been convicted of a drug-related offense;
- Have fragmented family histories, with family members involved in the criminal justice system;
- Be survivors of physical and/or sexual abuse as children and adults;
- Have multiple physical and mental health problems; and
- Have a high school degree or GED but limited vocational training and sporadic work histories.
For years, DAPO has held monthly Parole and Community Team (PACT) meetings throughout the state to connect parolees with community services such as therapy, drug rehabilitation, job skills preparation and housing.
In pursuit of CDCR’s rehabilitative goals, the Program Unit staff from DAPO’s Fresno office recognized the need to target their female parolee population with gender-responsive programs. Under the guidance of Ramiro Calderon, Parole Agent II, in collaboration with Celeste Van Anne, Parole Service Associate, the Fresno Parole Office and Programs’ staff created a female-only PACT meeting – or FACT (Females Achieving Change Together).
The first FACT meeting was held in Fresno on Aug. 21, 2014, with 72 female parolees in attendance. The event linked the women to 25 community providers offering services and programs available in the area to help them successfully transition. With the success of the first event, as well as the positive feedback from the parolees, a second FACT meeting was held in Fresno on Feb. 19, 2015, for which 49 parolees attended.
The success of the FACT model has been recognized by DAPO and plans are underway to create FACT meetings in other districts to help female parolees around the state.
Parole Agent Supervisor Eric Fransham underscores the importance of gearing events toward female parolees.
“Female parolees are a smaller group overall, compared with male parolees,” Fransham said. “Events like this help to make sure no one gets left behind, that all offenders, male and female, are able to access gender-specific programs that will help get them on track.”
Northern Region Program Parole Agents organized the event in collaboration with the northern region field agents, supervisors and administrators. All parties were on hand to provide support and encouragement to the parolees and providers throughout the FACT event.
Marvin Speed, Parole Administrator I, was on hand to see the large turn-out and was pleased with what he saw.
“This event is the first of its kind for female offenders in Sacramento and the surrounding areas, and it certainly won’t be the last,” Speed said. “It is very promising to have this kind of turn-out for our first event, and we are excited to move forward and have it regularly occur to provide on-going education and support for female offenders.”
After the provider presentations, the parolees were also invited to participate in the Dress for Success event, organized by Program’s Parole Agent II Deborah Shoup, which offered donated business attire, including shoes and purses, to the female parolees to help them dress for successful interviews. Laughing as they sifted through the clothes to put together outfits, they consulted with each other, some of the program representatives, and Parole Agents for feedback on whether certain outfits would work to help them coordinate their interview attire.
Angela Wilson, Parole Agent III, is proud of her team’s efforts in organizing the event to make it the first of its kind for Sacramento-area female offenders.
“Everyone on my team has worked really hard to make this happen, recognizing PAII Deborah Shoup, PAII Jeff Bigley, and Parole Service Associate Lorena Cervantes as the lead personnel. Our (DAPO) leadership, especially the Northern Region executive team, has been extremely supportive in what we’re doing to get these women to take advantage of programming opportunities,” Wilson said. “Successful events like this are a win for everyone and seeing these ladies realize that they are not alone with help ready and available is absolutely worth investing in.”