Diamond came to our Clothing Bank Creating Excellent Outcomes (CEO) Training Program from Hazel D. Plant Women’s Treatment Facility’s Work Release Program in May of 2022. At 40 years of age, she has been incarcerated for more than half of her adult life. Most recently she has completed a 10-year sentence. When she started at the Clothing Bank, she expressed a desire to make a change in her life and not repeat her past mistakes. She has set goals of obtaining a full-time position and renting a place of her own. She has proven to be a hard worker, greeting everyone with a smile, and has shown a lot of potential. As we counted down the days until her release from incarceration in June, we braced ourselves for the hardship we knew she was about to face as many women before Diamond have experienced.
The four weeks since Diamond’s release have been filled with challenges. Her only option right now is to live with her family in an apartment in Wilmington, the same area that exposed her to the people, places, and things that started her cycle of incarceration. She wants to save money to get a place of her own, but right now she works two jobs simply to pay her share of the rent. She works at the Clothing Bank during the day, and at a fast-food restaurant most evenings. Diamond also has to attend Probation, TASC, and After-Care appointments. These obligations are scheduled on two different days, in three different places weekly.
After 10 years of incarceration, Diamond is learning how to use a cell phone and ‘simple’ things like setting an alarm and figuring out the bus schedule. Our staff are assisting her with applying for food stamps and Medicaid, finding a primary care doctor, and arranging mental health services. For the past 10 years, these resources were provided through her sentence. When she was released from incarceration she was given a supply of medication to address her long-term mental health condition which unfortunately ran out before she could get approved for Medicaid. She was not able to get an appointment with a primary care doctor for a month. “I was stuck in a situation where I couldn’t get my mental health meds, so I eventually fell into a depression”, she says. After a week without medication, Diamond ended up in the E.R. This eventually led to admission to a mental health crisis center. She was stabilized after a few days and returned to work.
Diamond’s physical, mental, and financial well-being have all suffered. Despite her best attempts, she keeps missing days from work at the Clothing Bank. Diamond says, “The Clothing Bank staff are very patient with me and my situation. If I worked somewhere else, I probably would be fired. It’s been a rough road for me to be successful after incarceration.” She is trying very hard to keep a positive outlook, however, it’s clear she is overwhelmed and exhausted.
Diamond’s story is not unusual. The details vary from woman to woman, but the general theme remains the same: without a loving, supportive community and a stable place to live, women released from incarceration with goals and dreams to turn over a new leaf too often struggle with the re-entry process. Their past, home life, and financial barriers make this change feel impossible and their hope and drive are quickly lost.
FH is committed to filling the gaps for women like Diamond. To learn more about our plan to provide programming and additional housing for women like Diamond, please read about our New Housing Program highlight.