To Address The Need For Reentry Programs, These Prisoners Made Their Own

At the oldest women’s prison in the U.S., on the west side of Indianapolis, Vanessa Thompson sat on a bunk in her cell, watching television. It was early 2015, the 17th year of her incarceration.

On TV, then-mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett was talking about a stubborn Indianapolis problem: 10,000 abandoned houses and lots, a remnant of factory closures and the mortgage crisis. Suddenly, Thompson had an idea, a way to redeem all those valueless homes while opening a door for prisoners just like her.

Building Toward a Future

At a time when the incarceration of women, relative to men, is on the rise — and with about 75 percent of state prisoners getting re-arrested within five years of their release — Thompson and the women at Indiana Women’s Prison hope their new reentry program can be a concrete and inexpensive national model for providing ex-offenders with both housing and a marketable skill.

Female Inmates In Indiana Pitch Plan To Rehab Empty Houses — And Their Lives

The women are concerned that officials will implement it for the state’s male inmates.

“Our labor is often discounted as women; if they give us vocational programs at all, it’s always something like cosmetology instead of auto repair or forklift driving,” said Toni Burns, 44, who is serving a 30-year sentence on an attempted murder conviction. “This may not be for us personally, but it has to be for women.”

NPR News, Drew Daudelin in Indianapolis


Inmates in state prisons face many challenges when they make the transition to the outside. In the U.S., three quarters of them will be arrested for a new crime within five years. In Indianapolis, some inmates have come up with a plan to help former prisoners and the city. From member station WFYI in Indianapolis, Drew Daudelin reports.

Higher Ed’s Message to Ex-Felons: No Second Chances

In an open letter, “We are Educators, Not Prosecutors,” 166 professors at Harvard University last month denounced administrators for unilaterally overturning a decision by the history department to admit Michelle Jones, a highly talented applicant for graduate school, because of a felony conviction 21 years earlier. She was released in August.

What neither the Harvard faculty statement nor related news accounts noted is that discrimination against incarcerated and post-incarcerated applicants to graduate school is commonplace.

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