Bus Blog: New Hour for Women and Children
September 25, 2020
There are no words to describe the grief of hearing keys jingling down a cell block corridor. There are no words to describe the trauma that long-term isolation can have on a body and mind. Yet, these are common experiences faced by women incarcerated within the United States criminal justice system. The idea that the tremendous trauma created by the U.S carceral system cannot and should not be normalized was the main idea that came out of the September 22nd Nuns on the Bus Virtual Site Visit conversation with New Hour for Women and Children.
New Hour for Women and Children is a Long Island based non-profit founded to provide meaningful support to current and formerly incarcerated women, and their children and families. New Hour was created to address the need for a re-entry program in Long Island, as Executive Director Serene Liguori said “When I got released there was no one there to help me. There was no program to help us. Now, for the first time there is a program on Long Island that supports re-entry.” While the agency may look small, Pamela Neely the Social Justice Coordinator was quick to emphasize that it “gets the work done.” Through serving over 1,000 women in incarceration annually, the numbers only prove her point when comparing the 65% recidivism rate of women who are released from jail to the 2% recidivism rate of women who go through the New Hour program.
The U.S carceral systems measures out punishment in terms of months and years. However, the New Hour Program recognizes that the grief and loss of imprisonment stretches well beyond those years and thus re-entry never stops, it is a lifetime process. Part of this lifetime process is recognizing the reality that all women have faced some form of trauma or violence in their lifetime, so even before experiencing the traumas that come with imprisonment they have their own unique triggers. Program Director Danielle Donaphin emphasized that “I do what I do because I believe in people” and it is this belief in the resilience of these women that the healing process can truly begin. Women, mothers in particular, who make up ¾ of the women behind bars, face unique challenges. Often times, their number one goal is to be reunited with their children and New Hour meets those demands by offering parenting classes and teaching work skills.
As the conversation came to an end, Serenea Liguroi left us with a couple questions that are especially relevant in a moment where prison reform and police accountability are dominating the news streams: “What about the prisons? What about the jails? How do we create equality among those who have been impacted by the carceral system?” We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we can begin by remembering that there is an innate worth in the women who are currently incarcerated those who have been formerly incarcerated. We can begin by remembering that there is a future beyond the prisons walls. We can begin by remembering that we all have the power to change the course of our lives.