June 12, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Roadway to Freedom Program
Dayton – State Representative Alma Allen, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Mary Covington and District Judge Maria Jackson from the Harris County Criminal Court, along with community and criminal justice officials visited the Roadway to Freedom program at the Plane State Jail on Thursday. The program is designed to help female offenders abandon prostitution and reintegrate them into a safe and healthy community environment, with the goal of ending the self-perpetuating cycle which leads back to drug abuse and prostitution.
Introduced in 2014, the program targets female offenders with a current or past conviction for prostitution or a history of prostitution without conviction. Participants include women who self-report their involvement in the sex trade or those who have been victims of sex trafficking. With a capacity of 114 participants, the program accepts volunteers with 90 to 180 days remaining on their sentence at time of enrollment.
The program helps rebuild an offender's self-esteem and teaches them that they can improve themselves by making better life decisions. One program participant explains, "Through this program I'm learning more about myself than I ever realized I could. I'm learning how my past affects my future and how to overcome everything to be able to succeed and not go back to the street life that I've always known." The curriculum addresses emotional and social triggers, such as co-dependency and drug addiction, which can lead them back to the prostitution lifestyle.
For five days a week, two hours are spent in direct classroom work covering topics such as cognitive intervention, victimization and trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, conflict resolution and anger management. Another two hours of indirect programming focuses on journal writing, completing work assignments and discussion. A case manager and a health specialist are available to meet individually with participants to provide advice.
Throughout the week the women participate in peer-led group discussion to expand on class topics and share personal histories. Recounting their personal stories in a safe and supportive environment allows for a better understanding of the circumstances which brought them to prison, and helps many begin the journey to recovery.
All participants are encouraged to enroll in Windham School District classes, and members of F Dorm attend weekly sessions with Life Coach Kathryn Griffin-Townsend, a former sex trade worker and recovering drug addict, who comes in once a week to serve as a mentor. Having spent years involved with prostitution and making 21 failed attempts in drug rehab before succeeding, Griffin-Townsend brings first-hand knowledge of the tough lives these women have led and she is living proof that, despite their past, they can turn themselves into a success. She teaches them that it is important to forgive themselves for their past in order to create a better future. Kathryn encourages program participants, telling them, "I’ve been an addict for 20 years, and I've been in the sex trade far longer. I am an example to these women that one can rise above that."
Family reunification counseling is also available and participants are referred to the Reentry and Integration or Health Services divisions as needed. Ultimately, rehabilitation relies on the offender understanding that there are alternatives to living by the sex trade, and a better life can be had by making better life choices.