Community Figures to Speak out at Re:Entry Summit

The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit is almost here! We’ve told you about the impactful speakers from out of state coming September 30th to speak about the lasting impact prison has on women and how limited resources prevents successful re-entry for many. The conference will also feature many accomplished local figures including Texas State Senator John Whitmire, Judge Denise Bradley, Judge Angela Ellis, Judge Vanessa Gilmore and Texas House of Representatives member Senfronia Thompson.

whitmire_john_pg   Senator John Whitmire represents the 15th Senatorial District in Texas, which includes North Houston and parts of Harris County. Elected in 1982, Senator Whitmire is the senior most member of the Texas Senate and is the “Dean of the Texas Senate. He serves as the Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and works to bring about needed changes to the adult and juvenile justice systems. He also Chairs the School Discipline Consensus Project, where leaders nationwide work together developing strategies to minimize the over-use of suspension and expulsion in public schools, improve students’ academic outcomes, reduce the referral to the juvenile justice system, and promote safe and productive learning environments. Senator Whitmire will deliver a noontime keynote speech to Summit Attendees.

denise bradley againJudge Denise Bradley currently serves as the Judge of the Texas 262nd Criminal District Court and presides over one of the Harris County Success Through Addiction Recover (STAR) courts. The STAR courts work with non-violent offenders struggling with addiction, giving them in-patient drug treatment, transitional housing and job training in an effort to keep them from returning to the criminal justice system. Judge Bradley also serves on the Specialty Courts Advisory Council. The council evaluates applications for grant funding for the therapeutic courts in Texas. A graduate of South Texas College of Law, before her election to the 262nd Criminal District Court Judge Bradley worked in the Trial Bureau and served as the Chief of the 177th and 185th District Courts. She also worked as the gang prosecutor and was assigned to the Major Offenders Division where she worked closely with the cold case squads of various law enforcement agencies.

Angela Ellis CroppedJudge Angela Ellis is an associate judge of the 315th District Court. She is juvenile court judge who hears child welfare, juvenile justice cases, and requests for special immigrant juvenile status for undocumented children. She is also involved in the Growing Independence Restoring Lives (GIRLs) Court, a human trafficking treatment court for minors who have been victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. Before becoming an associate judge in 2009, Judge Ellis served as a lawyer after earning her law degree at South Texas College of Law.

Judge Photo #2Judge Vanessa Gilmore was the youngest sitting federal judge in the nation when she was first sworn in in 1994. The University of Houston Law Center graduate specialized in civil litigation during her 13 tenure with Vickery Killbride, Gillmore and Vickery Law firm. Judge Gillmore has also been widely active in the Houston community, serving on several boards including a term as president of the YWCA of Houston. She was the first African America person to serve on the Texas Department of Commerce Policy Board, which is dedicated to developing job training, increasing business and promoting tourism in Texas. Judge Gilmore is the co- author of “A Boy Named Rocky”, a book for the children of incarcerated parents and is a frequent speaker on issues related to these children and their families. She has worked on initiatives to help these families with access to resources for their children, including the development of a legal clinic at Texas Southern University.

SENFRONIAA closing speech will be given by Texas House of Representatives member Senfronia Thompson, who has represented district 141, comprised of northeast Houston and the Humble, area since 1973. A graduate of Texas Southern University, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and University of Houston, Thompson served as the Dean of Women Legislators, and chairs the Women’s Health Caucus. She co-chairs the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking. In her career Rep. Thompson has been an advocate for child support enforcement, legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, and legislation combatting human trafficking.

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear these local figures speak on the impact of incarceration on the lives of women. Click here to learn more about the Re:Entry Summit and to purchase your ticket.

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Our Speakers

A Country Called Prison by Mary D. Looman, PhD. and John D. Carl, PhD.

A Country Called Prison Cover

A Country Called Prison proposes that prison is a culture that does not begin when one is incarcerated, but with disadvantaged, abusive and neglected childhoods. This culture persists in correctional facilities and in life post-incarceration. Caught in this culture, the “legal aliens” grapple with being born and cultivated in a Country Called Prison, but also being expected to abide by American societal norms. A Country Called Prison offers pragmatic and economical suggestions to reform the prison system and address the incarceration epidemic in America.

Dr. Mary D. Looman is a prison psychologist at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Reception Center and an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma. She has more than 30 years of experience in the criminal justice system, in both juvenile and adult settings, as well as in mental health settings with at-risk families.

Dr. John D. Carl is a college professor, social worker, and sociologist who is an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma. His background includes experience with criminology and criminal justice as well as social work in prison and a variety of medical settings.

The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma by Andrea M. Leverentz, PhD.

The Ex-Prisoner's Dilemma

The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma offers an in-depth, firsthand look at the former prisoner’s experience reentering American society. Through a series of interviews with forty-nine women, Dr. Andrea Leverentz reveals how the formerly incarcerated attempt to navigate and reconstruct their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters, romantic partners, friends, students and workers. The book depicts the precariousness of reentry for women in light of public policy, a primary focus on male prisoners, and the way society views the formerly incarcerated.

Dr. Andrea M. Leverentz is the director of the Master’s program in Applied Sociology and the Criminal Justice program at the College of Liberal Arts and an associate professor of Sociology. Her areas of expertise include Communities and Crime, Prisoner Reentry, Gender and Crime, Urban and Community Sociology, and Qualitative Research Methods.

The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit Seeks to Empower and Educate

Texas has the largest prison populations in the United States. In 2014, 12,214 of those incarcerated were women, and of those women, 8,550 served a previous sentence. Ex-offenders face a multitude of legal and social barriers that inhibit them from successfully re-entering society. A study by the Legal Action Center found that Texas has over 32 different laws restricting released prisoners, ranging from employment policies to limitations on public assistance. These barriers increase the likelihood of relapse and recidivism among individuals with criminal records. One in five women released in Harris County will receive insufficient support in overcoming these barriers.

While post-release reintegration is difficult for anyone, women face unique challenges that are often overlooked and lead to unmet needs. Female offenders are more prone to addiction, mental illness, low self-esteem, lack of job skills or experience and homelessness than their male counterparts. Women out of prison also face additional challenges in finding employment: many second-chance jobs are primarily manual labor and involve time commitments that conflict with childcare responsibilities.

The Women’s Home, with funding from the Texas Bar Association, will host a summit September 30 addressing the challenges women transitioning from prison to society face.

The summit will take place at United Way Houston and feature panel discussions and breakout sessions with national and local experts addressing the challenges women face before, during and after their experience with the prison system. Subjects covered will include behavioral health, law and policy making, as well as housing and employment barriers.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Mary D. Looman and Dr. John D. Carl, the authors of A Country Called Prison and Dr. Andrea M. Leverentz, author of The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Drs. Looman and Carl propose that prison is a culture that begins with disadvantaged, abusive and neglected childhoods setting up an entire segment of the population to become duel citizens who struggle between U.S. societal norms and a country called prison. A Country Called Prison offers pragmatic and economical suggestions to reform the prison system and address the incarceration epidemic in America.

Dr. Leverentz offers an in-depth, firsthand look at the former prisoner’s experience reentering American society inThe Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Through a series of interviews with forty-nine women, Dr. Andrea Leverentz reveals how the formerly incarcerated attempt to navigate and reconstruct their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters, romantic partners, friends, students and workers. The book depicts the precariousness of reentry for women in light of public policy, a primary focus on male prisoners, and the way society views the formerly incarcerated.

The Houston area has not seen an event of this nature since 2008, making this a great opportunity to bring our community together and advocate on behalf of female ex-offenders.  By educating our community, we hope to create better opportunities for women as they re-enter society, helping to keep them from experiencing homelessness or further incarceration.