56 Resource Service Providers participate in ambitious gender-responsive outreach
SAN FRANCISCO – Jasmine Washington lifted the lapels of her sleek blazer and boldly strutted between rows of fellow parolees at the Southeast Community Facility in San Francisco Oct. 24 during the 4th Annual Females Achieving Change Together (F.A.C.T.) event.
Surrounded by 67 of her peers, representatives from 56 local resource service providers and supportive Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) staff from the Adult Programs Unit (APU), Washington displayed her own empowerment just as sharply as she did her new suit courtesy of Dress for Success.
Partnering organizations made the effort the largest of its kind for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and a landmark achievement for APU staff.
“I think that I was showing the change that I see in myself,” Washington explained after a short fashion show. “A few years back I was doing drugs and I was ready to go. Every time I got high I was hoping it was that hit that would take me out of this planet – I was ready to be gone.
“Now I feel like I’ve gained meaning, and I feel like I am able to just grow and be proud about it.”
Sonia Sandoval, event organizer and Parole Service Associate for Northern Region APU, said resource service providers were happy to be part of this life-changing event and want to continue being part of CDCR’s efforts to make a difference in these women’s lives.
“Some of the ladies I spoke with expressed they felt positive and empowered to hear all the positive stories and the hope expressed by everyone attending for making change,” she said. “They were thankful to us for making these types of events available to them.”
Parolees visited with community specialists who offered opportunities in job training, employment, education, women’s health, and family resources. Service providers, some of them formerly incarcerated people, also offered hearty support for apprenticeships, mental health, sex-trafficking prevention/awareness, violence intervention and even tattoo removal.
“I see these successes around me, this life around me, and it makes me more proud of who I am,” Washington said, pointing to the commotion around her. “I have lost a lot of family members, but I have finally worked out of that rut of feeling alone, ashamed and depressed, like I was ready to leave this life.
“This event is a great opportunity for all of us.”
Amika Mota, Prison Reentry Director for the Young Women’s Freedom Center, said the parole population can be hard to reach, and was thrilled to connect with so many formerly incarcerated women in one place.
“I am grateful to have access to so many women who are powerhouses in our minds,” Mota said. “These women are just waiting for that connection and opportunity to transform the experience that they have had. I hope this grows and the power in this room that women have is acknowledged and lifted up.”
The event included stirring dialogue from Betty McKay, the East Bay District Peer Reentry Navigation Network Navigator and Cecelia Carrillo, Administrative Assistant at the Office of Women’s Policy. McKay, also formerly incarcerated, told the women “Today is our day.”
“You have to want something so much that you will get out of your own way to get it, and do whatever it takes to achieve it,” McKay said. “Here I am. I am still standing and so are you.”
DAPO Assistant Deputy Director Brenda Crowding visited the progress in action. She couldn’t help but share a special moment with the parolees in attendance.
“Watching all of you in this room I feel love, hope, connection and sisters helping sisters,” Crowding said. “You have people sitting in this room who are encouraging you, who are lifting you up, who are telling you that you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it and put some hard work behind it,”
“I am seeing successes throughout this room today.”
Dominique Cowling of Community United Against Violence said it was the first time her organization had a chance to outreach to so many parolees, and share information about her teams’ efforts to transform violence and oppression in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer communities.
“This event is very unique,” she said. “What I am really interested in is making sure people know about our services.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 5, 2018
Contact: Ike Dodson