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A faith-based program is getting results reducing recidivism at a Denver prison

Posted at 9:24 PM, May 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-07 07:42:06-04

DENVER — A unique program is working inside the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility to prevent recidivism through faith and parenting.

Jenny Dean Schmidt with ChannelMom has been guiding women at the Denver Women’s Correctional facility through a program she runs called Forever Moms.

 “I'm unafraid of these women because once I get to know them, I see that they’re mothers who love their children just like me,” Schmidt said.
She said over 150 women who have been found guilty of serious crimes have participated in Forever Moms in the past four years.
Over eights weeks, the curriculum covers relationship building, faith, education, finding a job and substance abuse resources. The ninth week is a graduation ceremony.

The purpose of program, Schmidht said, is to teach women "parenting principles, to reconnect her to have faith, to lift up her value, to reconnect her to her child."

A report released in March by the Prison Policy Initiative found 58% of women in state prisons are parents to minor children. Most are incarcerated for non-violent crimes related to substance abuse.

That’s how Josephina Patton, a mother of two boys — aged 11 and 2 years old — ended up in prison.

“I felt like I had really messed up and I didn't know how I could be a part of their life still, and I had a lot of shame and guilt." Patton said. "I missed out a lot because of my addiction."

Patton said she was apprehensive about Forever Mom’s at first, but became more trusting through each course.

“In prison, you kind of feel like you got to be tough, and I didn't have to be tough anymore, I could let my guard down and like, say, 'I miss my kids and I don't know how to be part of your life right now,'” Patton said.

A faith-based program is getting results reducing recidivism at a Denver prison

Each student in the class is given a Prison Outreach Course Book where they can journal and work through the curriculum.

Patton said she was taught conversation starters in the class that helped improve her relationship with her oldest son.

“I couldn't get him to really talk so I started asking these questions, and we started doing hourlong visitations full of conversation,” Patton said.

Children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to become incarcerated themselves.

Schmidt said they’re seeing positive results with just 20% of the moms in her class re-offending after being released compared to the national average of 50%.

“If you don't interrupt this cycle of crime and shame and brokenness, the child is going to end up the next one in prison,” Schmidt said.

Patton is now 18 months sober and is proud to be employed. She spent Christmas with both her children and talks to her son nightly. She told Denver7 she wants to keep moving forward for her family. 

“My son tells me that he's proud of me. My baby doesn't know me yet but my sister tells me he's going to thank me one day,” Patton said.

Forever Moms is a charity working at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility on a volunteer basis. It is run through ChannelMom radio and podcast which focuses on mothers and families.

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