Story by Douglas Broome, Parole Administrator
Photo by Jesus Sanchez, Parole Agent I

The Los Angeles City Mayor’s Office and US Senator Kamala Harris’ Office joined the LA Central Parole District in sponsoring an inspirational luncheon that empowered and encouraged female offenders to better their lives not just for themselves, but for their families too.

On April 18, 2018, the Los Angeles Central District hosted its Female Offender Empowerment Luncheon. The luncheon served to assist the female offenders with reentry and provide employment opportunities. Female inmates from the Community Correctional Transitional Rehabilitative Program (CCTRP) and female parolees, totaling sixty-three, attended as well as variety of community based providers, vocational trade schools, and several different industry employers.

Female parolees who attended the luncheon were dressed in business attire courtesy of Dress for Success and had their hair and make-up done by the students of Abram Freidman School of Cosmetology.

Evidence-based practices have shown that female offenders’ needs are different from the needs of male parolees. Female offenders have often suffered from some type of abuse prior to committing their crimes.  As a result, The Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) has developed and implemented the Female Offender caseloads to address and assist with the specific needs of this population.

The luncheon had several guest speakers whose messages were topical in nature and served to awaken a sense of self and self-pride. The panel of speakers included LA Central Parole Administrator Vincent Thompson, Southern Region Regional Parole Administrator Karen Thacker, retired Parole Administrator Michele Woods, Inglewood One Stop and Business Center Career Director Monica Pecot and Heather Hutt, Deputy State Director of US Senator Kamala Harris. The Keynote Speaker was Los Angeles City Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley. In addition to the panel, female offenders Catherine Samuels and April Adkins provided words of hope to all who attended.

The  themes that resonated the most with the female offenders and that elicited a unanimous “yes” was the tearing down of barriers, first impressions and putting yourself first.

Parole Administrator Vincent Thompson discussed with the group the importance of tearing down barriers. He acknowledged that everyone has some type of barrier that they need to deal with. It is his hope that by having specialized caseloads and by hosting these events, female offenders, with the support and encouragement of DAPO and community based providers, would be able to overcome those barriers that were previously insurmountable.

Sitting among the unknowing and unwitting audience was Retired Parole Administrator Michele Woods. As she engaged the female offenders in conversation and dressed in her professional attire, she seamlessly blended in. Once announced as the next speaker, Woods quietly walked up to the podium and discussed the importance of first impressions and to always be on your best because you never know who will be on the hiring panel for a job you are eagerly seeking to obtain. The big reveal was not until she concluded her speech, at which time she informed everyone that she was a retired Parole Administrator. As the audience gasped, she knew that she had achieved her desired effect.

Parolee April Adkins, who is on life parole, shared her story of abuse and incarceration. She spoke passionately about her decision to take control of her life by putting herself first. “By putting myself first, many doors have opened,” she said. “Now I’m independent and giving back to many in the community.”

Los Angeles City Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley, the event’s keynote speaker, encouraged the female offenders to overcome reentry hurdles and obstacles that once plagued their successful reintegration into the community. The Deputy Mayor wanted the female offenders to take full advantage of all of the programs and services that are willing to assist them; never give up; and to continue to build upon the network women in attendance.

The Los Angeles Central Parole District continues to build upon the Family System and Enhanced Case Management Theories to assist the female offender population in changing dysfunctional social patterns and restoring healthy functioning within the family system through focusing on reintegration needs and stabilization in the community for continued success beyond parole.