As New York City prepares to close Rikers Island in the coming years, lawmakers and community leaders are actively working to redefine the city’s incarceration system. This includes addressing the overlooked gender-specific challenges and needs of justice-involved women.
Justice-involved women, or those that have had interactions with the criminal justice system as a defendant, are more likely to have serious mental health issues, struggle with poverty, and have experienced domestic or sexual violence – nearly 70% are also caregivers. Yet, most incarceration-related systems and programs are designed primarily for men and do not speak to the nuanced needs of women.
To combat the overlooked needs of justice-involved women, Trinity Church Wall Street – with the support of three grants from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation totaling $3.5 million – has brought together a cohort of six organizations to provide holistic reentry support for women transitioning to life in NYC after Rikers. Collectively, starting in 2020, the cohort of organizations assists nearly 500 women with housing, childcare, job training, and mental health services.
Among the organizations is HousingPlus, a community organization that provides safe, stable and affordable housing to women and children who are affected by incarceration. A Little Piece of Light (ALPOL) and Ladies of Hope Ministries, similarly, focus on creating housing solutions for women leaving the justice system. Hour Children focuses on childcare, job training, and mental health services, while LifeWay Network specifically helps survivors of human trafficking heal and rebuild their lives after incarceration. At Providence House, grants go towards helping women solidify family bonds with their children after incarceration, helping to mend the disruptive effects that incarceration can have on children’s lives.
As NYC’s incarceration systems undergo reform, Trinity Church is working to address the root causes that have caused women to end up at Rikers, and provide the holistic tools for a successful re-entry. By bringing the cohort of organizations together, Trinity Church is also helping New York City test new models, determine best practices, and build capacity for effective gender- and trauma-informed services both during and immediately following the upcoming closure of Rikers Island.
To learn more about Trinity Church Wall Street’s efforts and their partners, visit their website at https://trinitywallstreet.org/.