- Issues facing women served by Houston County Courts were initially identified by Judge Conaway, Dr. Jack Sasser and the WRC, Inc. Board. The need to address the transitional needs of women in community work release programs to dramatically reduce recidivism rates by improving successful integration into local communities was evident. Since 1972 the number of women prisoners in Alabama has increased 930%. With the only Alabama women’s facility at 190% of capacity, it is a very real threat that the federal government will take over, forcing mass releases. Most of these women are sent home to live in exactly the same situations they were in when they committed their first crime. Once this information was substantiated through research of the situation throughout Alabama, the plan was set in motion.
The pilot program, NewBridges, partially funded by Wiregrass Foundation, brings a new type of transition housing experience to the area. This recovery life skills program (RSLP) is a residential transition home that provides comprehensive and individualized planning and intervention for 12 – 24 women at a time over the course of a year. The target population for this project is women participating and eligible for the Houston County Corrections Work Release program. NewBridges will work with moderate-to low-risk offenders to provide assessment, targeted services, and job training. The primary goal of the project is to reduce recidivism in the Wiregrass. The transition home is not a temporary stop over on the way back to a bad environment. NewBridges is intended to fundamentally change the capacity of women to stand on their own. The plan integrates comprehensive intervention with job training for livable wages with the potential to support families. Training and services will be provided by the National Institute of Corrections and local educational and mental health partners. The long term goal of the project is to reduce the number of women returning to corrections in Houston County, AL from the current 21% to 10% by the end of the three-year pilot program, and to 5% after five years.
“NewBridges will be a positive place to be and the women will be treated with dignity and respect by all.” (Dr. Jack Sasser).