The number of Arkansans being sentenced to prison is increasing — with an incarceration rate that’s now sixth in the nation.
Those numbers just released by the prison policy initiative.
It found most inmates are repeat offenders and resources in our region are trying to end the cycle of life behind bars.
At 19 years old Brenda Stringfellow was hooked on drugs.
And for the next seven years, she was in and out of prison.
“For awhile you’ll blame everyone else but yourself,” Brenda Stringfellow said. “But then you spend time on the inside and realize yep, I put myself here.”
After being released from the Arkansas Community Correction Womens’ Prison in Fayetteville she joined a program that transformed her from a mentee to a mentor.
“The recidivism rate will go down in places that have the resources,” Manager of the Goodwill Industries of Arkansas Re-entry Program Marty Hausam said.
At returning home in Springdale, people who were in prison can come and take advantage of free services such as finding identification, clothing assistance and a-a meetings.
“When they are walking out sometimes they don’t have anything.,” Hausam said. “They have the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet.”
The biggest box to check is finding these clients jobs – something Northwest Arkansas isn’t short of.
After a 16 week program, Goodwill will place them into full-time employment.
“What stands out in Northwest Arkansas is our big employers here are deciding to give these people a second chance and hiring them after their program,” Hausam said. “And they are finding those workers work even harder to prove themselves.”
Now Stringfellow sits in the role of transitional employment opportunity coordinator – a role she once looked up to.
“The most precious thing any of us have is our time,” Stringfellow said.
And after doing time, the former inmate says she’s prepared for a life long mission of breaking barriers.
“Prison taught me I couldn’t live how I was living,” Stringfellow said. “But it took treatment to teach me how to live again.”