Eight years ago Seattle Police Detective Kim Bogucki received a stack of essays from Renata, an inmate at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW at Purdy). With these essays as a foundation, Kim and Renata created the If Project, a program with a mission of preventing future crime, supporting former inmates in re-entry, and encouraging inmate participation in the outside world.
It started with a single, seemingly rhetorical, question: If there was something someone could have said or done that would have changed the path that led you here, what would it have been?
Since Detective Bogucki asked the question and Renata rallied her peers, 3000 women have responded with hand-written letters, and the collaborative program of law enforcement, incarcerated adults, and community partners has grown and flourished. Today, the If Project facilitates programs for youths, trainings for adults who work with youth, mentoring programs to assist with re-entry, and workshops for current inmates. Their joint effort is to prevent future crime and reduce recidivism.
You can learn more about the If Project HERE and watch a short video. I confess: I cried.
Detective Bogucki spoke at my Human Services and Public Health Committee on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, and afterward she and I discussed what we could do for women who are re-entering society after prison.
I asked her to give me a road map for what we could do to support successful transitions for former inmates. Her answer fits in with the work we are doing community-wide to prevent homelessness.
Here’s the idea Detective Bogucki and I scratched out – essentially on the back of a napkin – based on her experience:
- Women often don’t have families or homes to return to. They need community until they can get re-established.
- Women leaving the Correction Facility have a Personal Re-Entry Plan, but need continued gender-responsive programming to be successful. A women-only re-entry center with 24/7 access to showers, lockers, and washing machines would be impactful. They need each other.
- Stable housing and training give the women an important springboard for life back in society.
- The Creation of a Day Center offering a computer lab, classrooms, and office space where separate service agencies could be on site and coordinate their skills and available services would provide women re-entering the support and services they need.
- Labor unions may be interested in working with us and focusing on trade-related apprenticeship programs.
- The Correction Industries could partner with the manager of this location providing additional resources.
Helping people thrive when they’re released from prison is both the morally right thing to do and the economically smart thing to do. Thank you, Detective Bogucki, for the introduction to this great idea to help us address homelessness for previously incarcerated adults.
There’s more to come.