From Myra Clark, executive director of the Center for Community Transitions in Charlotte, in response to “Small-time role in crime puts woman in jail for life” (Dec. 16, 2012):
The Dec. 16 article tells the story of a woman whose life sentence for a relatively minor role in a drug offense poses questions about the fairness of state-mandated sentencing. The statistics cited are stunning: about one in 100 American adults (2.3 million) are incarcerated; state spending on incarceration has tripled in the past three decades; the U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but over a quarter of its prisoners.
These numbers are easy to brush off unless we realize that each of the 2.3 million incarcerated individuals leaves behind a family which suffers enormously. The article describes the anguish endured by the incarcerated woman’s mother, sister, and three children. The sister, who took over the care of the pre-teen children, believes their mother’s incarceration has created behavioral problems for the children. The article cites social scientists who believe that the harsher penalties have become “crimogenic,” meaning that they create “...more crime over the long term by harming the social fabric in communities and permanently damaging the economic prospects of prisoners as well as their families.”
This story is repeatedly played out in Charlotte, where every year hundreds of men and women enter the criminal justice system, leaving behind tattered families struggling to survive their own sentences of poverty, stigma, isolation and confusion.
The Center for Community Transitions works daily to transform the stories of these families from ones of despair to ones of hope. CCT provides employment and transition services and alternatives to incarceration, and restores and strengthens family bonds.
CCT is committed to breaking the intergenerational cycle of families involved in the criminal justice system by helping them reunite and become stronger. CCT works to achieve sustained improvements in the root causes and systemic issues of clients while addressing their most immediate needs of food, shelter, clothing and transportation.
CCT accomplishes these objectives through three programs: Families Doing Time serves families separated by incarceration by providing emotional support, practical information about the criminal justice system and community resources. The Center for Women is a 30-bed residential program for incarcerated women preparing for release, reentering their family, building a support system and gaining employment experience prior to being released. LifeWorks! provides employment assistance and personal evaluation.
With the support of the Charlotte community, CCT is working to create an environment of forgiveness, opportunity and second chances; where families are sustained as they struggle to support the incarcerated person and their children; where employers understand the person is not the crime, and consider giving recently released people a chance at a new beginning; where children know they are loved and have peace in their hearts even though they do not understand why someone they love is far away; and where those who strive everyday with their recovery and their growth in becoming the person they want to be will receive support, encouragement and the opportunity to be successful.