To help break the cycle of recidivism, The Grand Rapids Police Department launched the CLEAR Program for Women Tuesday to help keep formerly incarcerated women from going back to prison. An acronym for Coalition, Leadership, Education, Advice, Rehabilitation, the CLEAR Program is a weekly support group that offers emotional and logistical assistance to women who have been recently released from prison. Grand Rapids police officer Ruth Walters facilitates the group. She says many women who serve time behind bars are a byproduct of the environment in which they were raised.
“A lot of these ladies didn’t know any better to begin with," Walters said. "I mean sometimes it’s the culture, the neighborhood, the social stage you are at when you grow up. You don’t have any role models you don’t have any positive people to show you the way.”
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, more women are incarcerated in the US than any other country in the world, and it's not even close. Currently, the US claims 30 percent of the planet’s female prisoners.
Dr. Jaclyn Cwick teaches in Grand Valley State University’s School of Criminal Justice. She says that mass incarceration in US prisons has created an even larger need to rehabilitate those who have been released.
“It can’t be a lock them up and throw away the key mentality," Cwick said. "We have got about 600,000 offenders that are being released each year, and about 1600 per day. So we have really got our challenges cut out for us in terms of providing support to those individuals so that we can actually have them be released, and flowing through and cycling through the system.”
Which is where the CLEAR Program comes in.
“So that is what my group provides, especially with my ex-prisoners that are part of the group that can share their experiences with the new ones coming out.” Officer Walters said. adding that the CLEAR Program For Women is the most rewarding thing she has done in her 23 years in law enforcement.
"You actually see the difference you make in the ladies lives," Walter said. "You see their thinking change, you see their habits change, and you see them become successful.”