PEARL, Miss. (WLBT) - Graduation ceremonies: A milestone for women completing the Getting Ahead While Getting Out program at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl.
Fifteen female inmates finished a six-month course on re-entry into society including sessions on finances, seeking employment and networking to build resources and connections in the community.
The path to freedom after incarceration program is voluntary for offenders.
"As returning citizens they're going to need a lot of support," said program facilitator Sister Madeline Kavanagh.
The Mississippi Association for Returning Citizens created the system for returning citizens to help them break the cycles of incarceration and poverty through accountability, collaboration, building resources and learning opportunities.
Inmate Kimberly Wiseman of Memphis served 14 months and is scheduled for release in February.
The 39-year-old was convicted in Desoto County for habitual shoplifting.
“At the end of the course we took away that a lot of people will be here for you, that you can get ahead in life just by making a plan, having better outlooks and better decisions,” said Wiseman.
Catholic Prison Ministries held the sessions with volunteers from groups like NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
“You could see that they made a commitment to do better,” said NOBLE volunteer Valerie Anderson.
“It’s a program that helps people to become authors of their own lives, to be in charge of their own lives and to know how to take responsibility,” added Kavanagh.
Central Mississippi Correctional Facility superintendent Ron King said he hopes when the other ladies see the success of the program, participants share what they’ve learned and word spreads, increasing participation.
“Early results show that some of our programs are facilitated by volunteers are some of our most successful programs in the facility,” said King.
Angela Young of Memphis is looking forward to being released in July of 2020.
The 39-year-old was arrested for aggravated assault in Desoto County.
"The more I got off into the class, the more I learned and I really feel like I can make a change and I feel like I want to try to do something when I get back home in the community center," said Young.
Nearly 1,000 female inmates are in the facility.
There are more than 800 volunteers for CMCF’s male and female offender programs.