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July 14, 2016 • Headline News
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Ladies after Lockup:
Women use time in county jail learning new skills

Arlene Knudson

“I want to learn to read and write so I can read a bedtime story to my child.” That was what one inmate told Ripley County Jail Nurse April Stidham. This was just before Stidham’s first course, called Ladies After Lockup, at the Ripley County Jail in early 2016. Stidham and Sheriff Jeff Cumberworth procured a tutor for this young woman and now she reads everything she can get in her hands. And she writes notes to Stidham regularly!

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This course is voluntary and the ladies must follow the conditions outlined by Stidham to be able to participate. Stidham’s first and foremost goal is to change thinking, which leads to changing behaviors, to stop the revolving door of being back in jail upon release. One of the conditions was to complete the weekly assignment. The first assignment was to write out what each person wanted to do after release. That’s where Stidham learned about the woman that couldn’t read or write. Stidham was shocked. She couldn’t believe that in the current day in America someone hadn’t learned to read or write.

As Stidham has learned herself, it takes the right time and the right motivation to learn something. Currently this inmate is studying to obtain her GED. Goals for the course include learning how to look for employment, how to properly fill out an application, how to dress for success, how to get-along with coworkers once employed, and how to complete the proper paperwork for childcare. It’s also about how to find transportation assistance and how to look for opportunities to help themselves. Attitude is the biggest hurdle that everyone needs to attack. Often, people who are in jail have not had positive experiences and develop the notion that they can’t do anything to help themselves. Self evaluation and affirmation are qualities Stidham is constantly helping shape. The first class started with 11 participants. One woman decided she wasn’t interested, and five were released before the course was completed. However, five ladies received completion certificates on April 13. All this came about because of the criminal reform code two years ago. Low level felony offenders are being kept in local jails instead of going to a prison for up to two years. Prisons offer medical and social programs not available in the county jails. Stidham decided that the women in this facility need to do more than spend “time” in this building. She developed a career development course to help these ladies improve their abilities to make their lives better once they are released.

The nurse and sheriff are pleased with the program thus far. Stidham has plans to expand with an additional course for practical parenting skills and child development.

Local Bulletin Board

Application deadline is Friday, August 5.
Tyson Fund grant applications available
Many years ago, before Jim Tyson passed away, he wanted to set up a system to perpetually assist the residents in Versailles with things that might otherwise increase their taxes. He decided that he would set up a trust so that groups that are nonprofit and hold an IRS 501c (3) or (4) exemption could request funds to help them out with projects that would otherwise fall on the taxpayers in the Versailles area! For more information about the Tyson Fund, eligibility and how to apply read page 2 of the Osgood Journal dated June 14.

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