By Parole Agent II Jennifer Barnes
Los Angeles Central 4 Parole Unit
In an effort to reduce recidivism, CDCR has established the female offender program to create an environment where female offenders receive gender responsive supervision treatment and services that increase opportunities for a successful reintegration back into their communities.
The Southern Region Los Angeles Central District Parole is taking steps towards making CDCR’s vision and mission regarding the female offender a reality.
This vision began with Parole Administrator Vincent Thompson, Parole Agent III Francine Mitchell and eight Parole Agents – Dominique Hughes, April Pendleton, Nicole Ghanem, Yvette Vinson, Kasandra Johnson, Jennifer Barnes, Sheila Adkins-Miller and Paul Silva.
These Agents – who supervise a 53:1 ratio female offender caseload – facilitate a group meeting of 35 to 40 participants, on the third Wednesday of every month. These meetings are informative, helpful, and motivational.
The meetings tend to focus on relevant topics such as daily life skills, employment development, housing, and substance-use disorder treatment. In addition to planned group discussions, the female parolees are encouraged to initiate discussion topics that are of a sensitive nature such as domestic violence.
The parole agents, in conjunction with Chapman House Residential Facility, not only volunteer their time, they also provide clothing donations, hygiene care kits, books, and nonperishable foods. At the conclusion of every meeting, a lunch is provided to every female parolee.
“These female meetings provide camaraderie and testimonials from other female offenders who have achieved success through their hardships, encourages and inspires other females who may not be as hopeful or determined,” said Jackie Catlin, Chapman House Manager. “Many presenters from various entities provide helpful resources to assist in enhancing the quality and outcome of their lives.”
These meetings include speakers like Angel Charles, who has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Development and is a mental health and substance abuse treatment specialist.
At a recent meeting, she shared with the group her experiences in working with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors and common myths. She also provided tools and a safety plan to help break the cycle of domestic violence.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the female offenders were appreciative and grateful. The objective of every meeting is to empower the female offender to not only better their lives, but be able to effect positive change in the lives of others.
Ms. Charles said her true passion is helping those who have been hurt.
“My passion is evident by volunteering with youth in the Rites of Passages programs which help to guide them into being mature and responsible adults. Whether working with children, or adults, men or women, I truly derive joy from making a difference in the lives of others.”
These monthly meetings allow the female offender to have a forum to express their thoughts and concerns openly and without judgment. “Our hope is that we are able to provide the much needed tools and resources to help the female offender and by doing so they are able to help others along the way,” said Parole Agent I Kasandra Johnson. “Our motto is simply: Focus on how far you come, not how far you have to go….Every Day is a Second Chance.”