Each year we provide a safe group experience for 400 men and women in prison and in jail.
"Even though we are criminals we are not animals,” one offender said. “We need to be treated like human beings.”
We facilitate two groups for women in the Monroe County Jail and three groups for men in prison. In these voluntary groups, men and women engage in the courageous process of facing the issues that have lead to incarceration. We offer support groups for men and women once they are released from incarceration. "I need help looking at the scary parts of my life" is something we often hear.
Women’s Residential Program
Henri Nouwen, a spiritual author who spend much of his life working in a group home, once wrote: “Home is a place where we do not have to be afraid but can let go of our defensives and be free: free from the worries, free from the tensions, free from the pressures. Home is where we can laugh and cry, embrace and dance, sleep long and dream quietly, eat, read, play, listen to music and be with a friend. Home is where we can rest and be healed.”
Jennifer House is our residential program where staff and volunteers provide a loving, safe and supportive home. At Jennifer House, women and children recognize that they are beautiful just as God intended them to be. Jennifer House has eight beds for women and three beds for their children. Women come to Jennifer House directly from jail and spend an average of two to six months until a bed becomes available in long-term supportive living. Jennifer House requires individuals to live drug-free in a structured, accountable program. Women must be willing to receive chemical dependency and mental health evaluations, if necessary.
Women and Children Reuniting
One of our goals is to reunite the women at Jennifer House with their children. While at Jennifer House the children receive unconditional love and acceptance. They are able to be children and have fun. They work together with their moms to become a family. One mother told us, "Our children are worried and angry. They need help. We need help to be parents to them."
Men’s Residency Program
Currently the Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach is developing plans to begin a Men’s Residency Program that parallels Jennifer House. The local newspaper reports a new homicide on the streets of Rochester almost daily. While there is no simple solution to this problem, we know from the experience of Jennifer House that providing a safe home for people released from jail is a life-saving effort. A woman who lived at Jennifer House told us, “Something in my gut tells me that if I did not come to Jennifer House, I would have died.” In another reminder of how vital Jennifer House is to the women’s survival, three women who were accepted at Jennifer House chose not to come and were later reported in the newspaper as having been murdered. At a Visioning Day in January, 2005, parishioners ranked creation of a Men’s Ex-offender Residency Program #2 as a parish priority. Since that time, interested parishioners have met to pursue this dream.