McGreevey group to help women ex-cons restart their lives
The New Jersey Reentry Corporation, a nonprofit group that helps people who have been incarcerated find jobs and housing, is launching an effort to specifically assist women who have served time behind bars.
Next week, the group will unveil plans to establish a Women’s Reentry Commission.
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, the chairman of the Reentry Corporation, said the goal is to ensure that when women are coming out of prison, “their healthcare needs, their housing needs, their family needs are specifically addressed.”
He noted many women coming out of prison want to reunite with their children but that may not be as simple as it sounds.
“Her children may have been cared for by an aunt or relative, or somebody simply that she knew,” said McGreevey. “And there’s the process of reunifying with the family.”
He said to give women the best chance of creating a successful new life in society, support programs must deal with the issues that led them down the wrong road.
“Again and again, in all of our research we see a pattern between addiction, sexual violence and domestic abuse and incarceration," he said.
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex, who will serve on the Commission, said because many women leaving prison have been exposed to intense psychological trauma in their lives, that impacts “how you deal with the workforce, how you deal with men and how you deal with women.”
She said there are mental health assistance programs “but I’m going to be honest with you: We don’t have enough of it. I don’t think we have enough hands on.”
McGreevey said another focus of the Commission will be to make sure the children of women coming out of jail don’t follow the same patterns as their mothers.
“We need to address the unique circumstances of these women so they can be healthy parents, healthy mothers for the sake of their children,” he said.
Marin said she cannot imagine what it’s like to be separated from a child or give birth while behind bars.
“That’s just a different psychological aspect than a man will deal with," she said.
The Commission, which will include legislators, lawyers, medical and psychological experts, will review conditions and programs at the Edna Mahan women’s correctional facility in Hunterdon County, which has a history of abuse problems. The women's prison has more than 550 inmates.
“We have to ensure that women’s safety is paramount both in prison and when they return back to their homes in the community," McGreevey said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com