Ask the DA: Helping female offenders

September 12, 2012 By Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes
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I am proud to announce that this month I was recognized as an “innovator” by the National Resource Center for Justice-Involved Women (NRCJIW) for my Drew House Program

The NRCJIW, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Corrections and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, was established to enhance the sharing of information among practitioners and policymakers working with women in the criminal justice system.  

I believe that gender-responsive programming, such as Drew House, will advance the objective of reducing crime by rehabilitating the female offender while at the same time offering services and support to her children, thereby breaking the cycle of yet another generation following the path to criminality.

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Drew House is a family alternative-to-prison program for female defendants with dependent children.  Studies have shown that removing children from their mothers traumatizes the children and seriously harms their development.  Children of incarcerated mothers are less likely than their peers to succeed in school and are much more likely to be truant, engage in substance abuse, gang activity, sexual misconduct and juvenile delinquency.   

Drew House provides an opportunity for these women to serve out their court mandates while residing at Drew House with their children. The program offers a wide array of services aimed at avoiding the family fragmentation that frequently occurs when the mother is incarcerated.  

This comprehensive program continues to receive widespread support.  Rehabilitating mothers while keeping their families intact promises to reduce recidivism and the social costs incurred when mothers are incarcerated and their children either enter foster care or live with surrogates who are often unable to provide appropriate levels of care.  The cost of keeping a mother with two children at Drew House is about$34,000, compared with the $129,000 it would cost for incarceration and foster care.  

My office has successfully and humanely used alternatives to incarceration to rehabilitate drug offenders.  Surely we can use that same model to rehabilitate mothers while keeping their families intact and healthy.

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