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UCSC grad student reaches out to women behind bars

UCSC grad student reaches out to women behind bars


January 21, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

When Susan Greene saw that women in jail had difficulty living on
the outside, she decided something had to be done.
So Greene, a graduate student in psychology at UC Santa Cruz,
started a program to support women after their release and to help
them get a fresh start.
Getting Out and Staying Out, which began in 1998, got such good
results that the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office signed on as a
financial sponsor.
“I saw a missing link between incarcerated women and the resources
that are available to support them when they get out,” Greene said.
“These women desperately want a better life for their children than
they had, but they need help.”
The program was an outgrowth of Greene’s dissertation research.
She learned about the struggles incarcerated women face when she
volunteered with Friends Outside, a national organization that assists
new inmates.
She recruited students from UCSC to volunteer at the
minimum-security facility on Blaine Street, where women serve
sentences of one year or less.
Volunteers help the women map out a step-by-step approach for life
on the outside, assisting them with filling out applications for jobs or
community college classes. A campus clothing drive twice a year
provides the women with thrift-shop vouchers to shop for clothes.
“There are so few people offering support that is consistent,” Greene
said. “I’ve always told volunteers the most important thing they can
do is show up.”
Female inmates in Santa Cruz County typically are poor and in their
early 30s with two young children, according to Greene. Many of
them are women of color, she said, and most are high school dropouts
with no job experience.
Greene also found that the women often witnessed domestic
violence as children and experienced physical or sexual abuse, then
turned to drugs and alcohol at a young age to numb the pain. The
cycle of drug use and petty crime would land them in jail again.
“There was never any time for healing, and most never talked about
what happened to them,” Greene said.
Her organization is recruiting therapists to provide pro bono sessions
to help the women deal with those issues.
Last year, the sheriff’s office provided the money to hire Jolene
Forman, a UCSC graduate, as program coordinator, a move Greene
“I wanted this organization to go beyond me,” she said.
For information, call Jolene Forman at 425-3434.
Contact Jondi Gumz at jgumz (at)

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