Aging, Elderly, Senior Citizens
Elder Wisdom nourishes the spiritual, social, and intellectual life of seniors, while equipping those seniors for transformative presence and meaningful service with others.
Seniors will be empowered to "live their best life" and provide service to their families and the community.
Healing Art fosters self-understanding, personal discipline and emotional healing for women in prison. Volunteer art teachers and therapists guide incarcerated women through an exploration of various art media and self.
The program is in second year. Evaluations are done annually, and we typically see a decrease in rules infractions and recidivism, and increased intra- and inter-personal skills.
At present there are more than 900 women incarcerated at Denver Women's Correctional Facility, a high-security state prison. We have a waiting list of women who desire soul care. Women of all faith traditions seek soul care. More than 30 incarcerated women presently receive regular soul care. Many choose to continue that transformative contact after they re-enter society.
A Soul Care Provider is also known as a Soul Care Companion, Spiritual Mentor, or a Spiritual Friend. Trained Soul Care Providers meet with women in prison on a regular basis. A soul care provider is someone with whom an incarcerated woman can express and process her thoughts, feelings and experiences in a safe, loving and trusting environment. A soul care provider helps a woman to become aware of God's invitation and supports her in her journey.
More than 300 women have been supported over the years, and our capacity continues to increase as more spiritual directors volunteer to serve women in prison.
"I couldn't believe I was able to tell someone all about my past! I've cried a lot. I now see how blessed I am! I can't change my past, but I'm a different person now. I can use all my mistakes and suffering to help people who are stuck and angry like I was."
-Robin, a directee
Making Choices is a community of women. We teach decision-making and life-planning skills to women incarcerated at Denver Women's Correctional Facility (DWCF). Making Choices connects business and professional women as volunteer mentors and teachers with incarcerated women. Since 1999, we have served more than 800 incarcerated women, assisting them in skills development and tools of self-determination.
Making Choices is based in Restorative Justice principles. We are committed to healing the community and fostering accountability, responsibility, and healing in our partners.
Why Making Choices? Incarcerated women often come from underprivileged, abusive, or drug-laden backgrounds. Between 60 and 80% of incarcerated women were victims of crime themselves before they became incarcerated. Typically they have had little opportunity to learn how to make positive decisions. Instead they tend to react impulsively, flee difficult situations by using drugs or drift along letting others make decisions for them. Also, Colorado's prison population grew 604% since 1980 while the population of the state grew 59%. The Department of Corrections budget is $703 million, up from $70 million in 1985. Currently 45 people a day are admitted to prison in Colorado. Sixty-five percent of incarcerated women are mothers of children under 18, and these children are 5-6 times more likely to become incarcerated than other children who live in poverty but whose mothers have never been incarcerated.
We serve with the following purpose:
- To foster the development of life-planning and decision-making skills.
- To ensure the release of incarcerated women back into society as stable and contributing members capable of leadership and pro-social relationships.
- To develop strong mothers ensuring a better future for their children.
- To educate the public about the increasing societal costs of our present system and the importance of reducing recidivism
- To network, to facilitate and to encourage new opportunities for employment and housing during re-entry.
1. Our program graduates demonstrate a 10%* recidivism rate, far less than the state average of 47%. (*Recidivism rate is 8% for those women who take our follow-up course.)
2. Joan Shoemaker, former Warden of Denver Women's Correctional Facility, credits Making Choices with making the facility safer for both inmates and staff, saying, "The quality and effectiveness of this program can be demonstrated by the results. The completion rate of the offenders is generally 100 percent.... Additionally, we have tracked the behavior of the offenders after completion and have seen a significant improvement indicated by a dramatic decrease in institutional violations."
3. Former warden Noble Wallace stated that Making Choices was directly responsible for lowering the facility's recidivism rate by 20%.
4. Making Choices has been featured in both of Denver's major newspapers, and in local community newspapers.
5. Program graduates who have been released from prison, volunteers, and our staff members are often invited to speak to groups in the community. They become healing agents in the community by formally and informally educating others about drugs, crime, restorative justice, incarceration, and reintegration. Some also become involved in public advocacy.
People/Families of People with Health Conditions
We train spiritual companions to be an active presence for populations who are typically marginalized---homebound elderly, homeless families, at-risk youth, the terminally ill, incarcerated women, and/or the disabled. During training, companions complete an internship with a local nonprofit and design supportive programs that enable these at-risk populations to tell their stories and to have their emotional and relational needs met.
Applicants to our training program most often hear about it from former graduates who speak highly of their experience. There is great receptivity in local agencies to our interns. The annual reports from our individual graduates indicate a high level of creativity in continued service delivery.