Touchstones Discussion Project: Expanding Women’s Life & Leadership Skills for Post-Incarceration Success

he Touchstones® Discussion Project (Touchstones) develops discussion-based programs that cultivate communication and thinking skills. At the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW), prisoners share many attributes: abuse prior to age 16, poor self-expression, diagnosed mental illness, parenthood and primary caregiver responsibilities. Most are non-violent offenders with low educational attainment. They return home in 3-7 years to high-poverty households. Fewer than 5% who participated in Touchstones programs from 2015-2020 returned to prison. The national average recidivism rate at five years is 70%+. This grant allowed us to augment imprisoned women’s skills for gainful employment and healthier, law-abiding decision making. In 2020, 50 incarcerated women, 5 volunteers, and 2 teachers learned to think differently, expressed emotions constructively, asked for help understanding new ideas, shared wisdom and experience, and gained a sense of dignity in their Touchstones discussions. The COVID-19 pandemic closed public access to prisons in March 2020. Preparing to return to prison last fall, we trained 10 community volunteers as program participants with discussion practice and education about causes of incarceration, life in prison, educating prisoners, and challenges faced during pre-release and post-release. Maryland’s prisons remain closed but we’re ready to re-engage as soon as possible.

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Anne Arundel Women Giving Together | giving@givingtogether.org
AAWGT is a fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
AAWGT is a member of Philanos: Accelerating Philanthropy through Women’s Collective Giving


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