Yesterday I attended a training with the theme of women and reentry entitled, Women, Re-entry and Everyday Life: Time to Work? Dr. Venezia Michalsen facilitated the event. The training was based on a research study conducted by the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) to determine how the use of time after incarceration impacts reentry and employment for women. It was awesome. Dr. Michalsen was a magnificent speaker.
We learned about the impact of incarceration on women and how it differs from that of men. Dr. Michalsen made several striking comments about the lack of support women receive vs. the support men receive when they are serving time. She stated bluntly, “women get far fewer visits than their male counterparts.” Even though this is not news to me, yet it remains mind-boggling when women are, in most cases, the backbone of their families.
I can’t seem to figure out why it is that women are so easily forgotten when they are incarcerated. I know all too well the hurt and pain associated with feelings of abandonment while incarcerated. More importantly, I understand the impact that family support and community ties can have on successful reentry, and what happens when these connections are not there.
Dr. Michalsen gave an excellent lecture on the results of the study WPA conducted on 33 women and how they managed their time during the reentry process. Their lack of time management skills noticeably impacted their employment goals. She discussed parole compliance, maintaining sobriety, securing housing and what she called, “latent goals,” such as self-care activities like exercising.
Dr. Michalsen stated, “The demanding pace of today’s society has made managing time a challenge for everyone. It is much more difficult for a woman returning to society after living in a structured environment.” In short, she surmised that the inability to manage time could be a barrier to successful reentry and a trigger to relapse and recidivism, especially when you consider the dynamic role of parenting.
Interestingly, Dr. Michalsen is a new mother and she acknowledged the stress as well as the joys of parenting. She went on to say that she was taught how to manage time and being a mother of a three year old has pushed her to new limits. She has resigned to writing her “Things to Do” list on her hand in the middle of the day. Balancing mandatory appointments, latent goals and searching for housing and employment is seemingly impossible for some women. She said, “You simply cannot obtain your manifest goals if you are primarily focused on your latent goals.”
At the end of the lecture, I was compelled to speak about my personal experience with time management during reentry. I shared my experience with getting terminated from my first job during the first phase of my reentry. I was working for the Department of Parks and Recreation at a Sports Camp, and I was required to see my parole officer once a week, perform a urinalysis twice a week, and participate in outpatient drug treatment twice per week. I was in a transitional housing program with a curfew, and I had no sense of direction in terms of traveling. The time it takes to get from point A to point B was very complicated for me.
I’ll never forget that moment when several members of the management team staff formed a circle around me and told me that they would have to let me go due to the fact that I was missing too many hours. I didn’t even try to defend myself for fear that I would break down in tears. Moreover, I didn’t have an excuse for myself. They escorted me to the gym to obtain my belongings and I was told to leave the premises. I was distraught.
The information conveyed by Dr. Michalsen was all too real for me, and although I understand that parole and probation officers are responsible for formerly incarcerated individuals in their effort to maintain public safety, I also understand how critical it is to help women manage goals and expectations and most of all TIME after incarceration in an effort to reduce recidivism and increase the likelihood of reentry success.