Messages of hope for formerly incarcerated women

Greenhope Services for Women will open their new home, Kandake House in East Harlem on Thursday, May 19, 2011 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the morning followed by a cocktail reception in the evening. Performances by the legendary Nona Hendryx formerly of Patti Labelle and the Bluebells and IMPACT Repertory Theatre with their powerful messages of hope will set the right tone for this ambitious undertaking.

This opening launches the journey to redemption for 72 women, 28 of whom will be housed with their child and would otherwise be homeless or face incarceration if not for Greenhope, one of a handful of women-only treatment programs in the country.

“Our out-patient programs serve over 200 women annually. Greenhope is further unique in that it unapologetically teaches women to put themselves first, honor their own voices, and set proper boundaries in their lives. Greenhope allows a woman the safety and time to get to know herself and give herself permission to choose her own life,” said Executive Director Anne R. Elliott, Ph.D.

Residents live at Kandake House for a period of 12 to 18 months while employing healing arts and traditional treatment models. Storytelling, journaling, the creative arts, attending live theatre, meditation, massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture, rooftop gardening and horticulture are just a few of the innovative approaches that will enrich the lives of these women who once faced the world without hope.

Housing formerly incarcerated women with substance abuse problems as they grapple with sobriety, job placement, educational pursuits and reunification with their families and using a holistic approach which is treating the whole body guarantees success and sustainability.

In fact, the recidivism rate is quite low amongst this particular female population. “Greenhope has maintained a less than 10 percent recidivism rate for the past decade, an amazing number and well below the national average of 50 percent. Actually, the recidivism rate for women is closer to 30 percent, which is less than what is commonly quoted for men,” Elliott pointed out.

Licensed by the N.Y. State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services mandates that all women who reside in Kandake House have an addiction problem. Individual treatment plans set by fully licensed substance abuse counselors, social workers and case managers ensure that the women maintain sobriety, complete treatment plan goals and objectives, successful level movement, completion of workshops, secure jobs, participate in training programs or school, secure housing, reestablish ties with children, meet criminal and family court mandates.

Treatment is provided in a gender responsive, trauma sensitive modality. The clients are educated about addiction in a safe space where feelings and issues are addressed. They graduate and go into aftercare services and into our alumnae association where follow-up counselors and outpatients services continue up to two years.

Funding is provided by New York City and State federal government agencies, such as N.Y. State Parole Board and Office of Criminal Justice, and private foundations such as The Robin Hood Foundation, Tiger and The Clark Foundations.

An on-site child development center has been established for children up to five years old. The first child was admitted recently and the hope is that the children will participate in early childhood programs in the East Harlem community in the future.

Harsh sentences under the Rockefeller Drug Laws have been meted out to many of the women now living at Kandake House. “Approximately 80 percent of women in prison or jail have been detained for or convicted of nonviolent drug and property crimes. In our experience, about 60 percent are sent to prison for B-level drug crimes and nearly 38 percent are sent to prison for one of the three lowest categories of drug offenses (C, D, or E offenses),” stated Elliott.

As residents progress in the program they are allowed to have overnight stays during the weekend but must meet curfew by 11:00 pm on weekdays.

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