New Corrections Approach Separates Women From Men

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Women sentenced to the Larimer County Community Corrections facility say they are not just serving time but reaping the benefits of a revolutionary approach to running a halfway house.

 

The community corrections program in Fort Collins is one of just a few in Colorado that have separate facilities for men and women, which allows the staff to plan activities that help the women deal with the problems that contributed to their incarceration.

 

Women’s program supervisor Patty McDonald said it’s her job to help the women leave the program better than when they started.

 

“They’ve been sentenced and gotten into some trouble, but no one knows that better than they do,” said McDonald, who has supervised the program since it received its own facility about two years ago.

 

McDonald said many of the women have been victimized for years, often by the men in their lives, and it’s her job to show them there is another way to live.

 

“That life is all they know,” she said. “And it’s our job to teach them something new. We’re trying to teach them they have a say in the type of life they live from this point forward.”

 

Lisa Smerker, who has been through the women’s program and now works in the post-press department at the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, said being separated from men allows the women to figure out their problems.

 

“If I would have been lumped in with the men, I would have worked hard to get out of the program and gone back to my old habits,” she said. “When you’ve been abused by men all your life, the last thing you’re going to do is open up to heal in front of men.”

 

Ruth Carrothers, the victim’s services coordinator at the facility, said helping women heal is a vital part of the women’s program.

 

“If you don’t treat unresolved pain, it keeps going and creating destruction in its path,” said Carrothers, a longtime social services worker.

 

Another woman who has been through the program said it makes sense to separate the sexes.

 

“We operate differently and function differently, and this was a safe place for me to come and find myself,” said Debbra Smith, who said she is now active in her church community and works as a housekeeper at a hotel.

 

One of the ways McDonald and her staff are helping women to lead a new life is by allowing them to participate in social community activities.

 

Women in the program have been involved with activities through Habitat for Humanity, the Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Center and breast cancer awareness groups.

 

Julia Docherty, who is currently in the women’s program and is a survivor of breast cancer, said she is leading a new life with the help of McDonald and her staff.

 

“I’m back on track better than I was before I came here,” said Docherty, who works as a hairstylist and participated in the Race for the Cure in Denver with other members of the program.

 

Other women, such as Yvonne Montoya, participated in the SAVA Center Faces project during Sexual Assault Awareness month where women who have been victims of sexual assault were photographed and had their pictures put on display.

 

“That was the first time I was able to admit publicly I had been sexually assaulted,” Montoya said, adding that she’s about to celebrate one year of sobriety.

 

Montoya also is working as a housekeeper at a hotel while she finishes her sentence.

 

Smerker said the community activities the staff plans are extremely beneficial.

 

“They teach us how to do normal things like normal people,” she said. “It’s about being sober and enjoying the community for what it’s there for.”

source: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/18218473/detail.html

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