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Increased incarceration has contributed to family disruption, and the inter-generational weakening of particularized communities that have high rates of female-led households.
In Texas, a third of female-led households are below the poverty level . A women’s struggle to provide for her children is often the impetus for criminal involvement in low-level theft and credit card abuse – crimes that account for a large portion of female charges. The growth rate of incarcerated mothers has increased more
rapidly than that of incarcerated fathers. These women are more likely to be the sole providers for their children than their male counterparts.
The result is that women of low economic status and high family responsibilities are cycling through the criminal justice system, causing a destabilizing effect on communities.
Reducing recidivism for women is a concern for children. The children of the incarcerated are at higher risk for criminal
justice involvement as juveniles. When mothers are restored, and can maintain a stable home and sustainable income
for their families, the next generation has a firm ground to build on. Restorative Justice is a partnership between the
criminal justice system and the community that is cost-effective and benefits communities by reducing crime and building
the capacity of returning citizens. The psychological, economic, and social constructs that were the women’s trajectories
to crime are within communities. Women’s post-release plans must involve a continuum of care that increases her sense
of community support.
A Reentry community that works together for shared goals requires a common language for treatment planning and evaluating. It requires a continual conversation that is not merely agency-based, but collectively addresses these social phenomena. An assessment that is validated for criminal justice involved females provides a common language among diverse systems. Portal Houston uses a validated assessment that is designed for a continuum of care in the community through planned access to matched resources. The use of this instrument helps address the criminogenic needs and
risks of women, and allows our assessment center to work with the state on reducing recidivism while focusing on client
centered outcomes. The majority of our clients are low-level state jail offenders who have no case planning services
offered by state criminal justice institutions. Yet these women have the highest rate of recidivism of any offenders.
Portal Houston is working with community service providers to fill a critical gap in services to a very vulnerable population.
In 2014, Portal Houston took a female-specific response to the Report of the Re-Entry Council . We began a series of Stakeholder forums, as a part of a community needs assessment for a female reentry initiative in the greater Houston area.
An advisory board of successfully reintegrated females is an ongoing part of addressing the issues most salient to women’s success. These quarterly luncheons feature speakers from criminal justice agencies and social service institutions. The advisory board and directors of non-profits who serve this population have a forum for exposing gaps in services and proposing solutions.
Collaborations formed through these conversations have created additional funding streams with shared outcomes, providing seamless transitions for women returning home to Houston.