Mentoring Moms helping pregnant inmates break the cycle of incarceration

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Mentoring moms helping pregnant inmates (KTRK)

It's the only program of its kind inside any jail in the United States and you can find it in Harris County. It's called Mentoring Moms. It's an idea that is helping pregnant inmates change their lives so they can strengthen their families.

Heidi Laser is preparing women in the program for life after they leave the Harris County Detention Center.

"Life doesn't always give us that perfect hand. Right? You may have to get to your destination in different ways," Laser told the group.

The 90-day-course helps these women to avoid the demons that brought them to the jail in the first place.

"They're looking at issues like personal development, managing their anger, conflict resolution. They're looking at stress. They're looking at self-esteem," said Jennifer Herring, Director of Re-entry Services at the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

The women are housed in the jail's pregnancy tank. It's a two-story pod with private cells and an open area where inmates spend much of their time.

"We noticed that they were mixed in with the general population and they weren't receiving services that they needed," said Herring.

On any given day there are around 100 pregnant inmates in the jail, but not all are accepted into Mentoring Moms.

"We are looking for people who are ready to grow," said Herring. "We are looking for people who are committed to doing the work."

Roberta Cortopassi gave birth to her son while serving time on a probation violation. The Mentoring Moms program has given her hope for the future.

"I grew up in foster care, so the sacrifices that I make for my child, I want him to be able to appreciate them because I never want him to need or want for anything or experience some of the things that I went through," said Cortopassi.

Stephanie Smith didn't even know she was pregnant until she was processed at the jail. For her, Mentoring Moms has been a blessing.

"I don't want my baby boy around anything like that. I don't I don't want him to grow up in that lifestyle" said Smith. "It's a hard life and it's not something that I want."

After completing the jail portion of the Mentoring Moms program, Kristanya Harrison transitioned into Santa Maria Hostel, where she continues to work on her recovery while raising her two sons.

"What you're doing at Mentoring Moms, you can come here and do with your children and learn how to be sober as being a parent at the same time," said Harrison.

Harrison is still in contact with her support team at Mentoring Moms.

"We don't leave them when they leave jail. We stay with them at least for up to two years and in some cases longer," she added.

Support that is helping to break the cycle of incarceration for these women and children.

Related Topics:
societyinmatespregnant womanHarris County
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