Female inmates learning to heal

6:27 PM, May 16, 2012   |    comments
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WINDHAM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - When female prisoners show up to begin serving their time, many have hit rock bottom emotionally. Helping inmates begin the healing process is the focus of special program at the Maine Correctional Women's Center in Windham. For more than a decade, it has given inmates a path to becoming productive members of society when they leave prison.

'Welcome ..I am so happy to have you participating in the Houses of Healing class...'

These women are doing time for variety of crimes. Some are at the beginning of their sentence while others will be released in a matter of months. But today all of these inmates are starting a very personal journey.

All of this women have very important reasons to make changes in their lives.

'In order to reconnect with my family and my children need to take care of myself and figure out why I do the things I do,' said inmate 'Mary Catherine.'

Melissa Allen, a former school counselor is the moderator of the 'Houses of Healing' program.

The class is based on the book 'Houses of Healing: A prisoner's Guide to Inner Power and Freedom.' Written by a Boston counselor, who began working in prisons back in the 80's. It's a self-help guide that deals with subjects like anger, grief, self-esteem and regaining dignity. Allen says inmates aren't likely to succeed outside prison unless they've worked on themselves. A key step is helping the women reconnect with their core self.

Mary Catherine is a 31-year old mother of two. She says bad choices are the reason why she is serving a four year sentence in connection for conspiracy to commit robbery. She grew up in a broken home but graduated from high school with honors. But after an injury shattered her dreams of a getting sports scholarship for college things changed drastically.

'I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and started using cocaine. I started using just to mask the feelings, I didn't deal with my feelings,' said Mary Catherine.

She quit her drug habit when she became a mother of two children. But started using again which led to the criminal charges and losing custody of her kids. 'I want to be a better mother to be able to forgive myself,' said Mary Catherine.

This class is helping these women learn how to heal from the pain and to start seeing themselves as people who can change for the good.


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