High demand for female inmate program

TRI-CITIES - KEPR uncovered the number of female inmates is on the rise in the Tri-Cities. It's why demand is up for programs that help women get back on their feet. Action News spoke with a former inmate to see how she got clean through one of these programs.

"Allison" will tell you right away, it's a rough life trying to get clean in prison.

"I just, like, let drugs and alcohol take over my life," said "Allison."

Allison is clean now and out of lock-up. But KEPR found more women are being put behind bars. In Benton County, the number of females in jail has jumped by 12 percent. More than 3,400 women were locked up last year.

Franklin County says they've seen about the same number of women in jail as they did previously.

Benton County officials tell KEPR the increase is mostly due to contracts and a rise in population. In Franklin County, more felons are getting locked up, and misdemeanors are on the decline.
Failing to pay legal financial obligations also contributes to the numbers.

It shows a need for help and for hope. It's why the national program "Teen Challenge" created the Women's Jail Outreach, with one branch right in the Tri-Cities.

"So often, women have felt like they're no good, they're no use to anybody, they've gone through such difficult things. And as a result, they just don't think there's any more hope," said Tri-Cities' Women's Jail Outreach Executive Director Kathy Rither.

It's how Allison got the courage to start her new life. "The smallest things speak the loudest to our hearts," described Allison.

The program hosts multiple meetings a week to encourage spirituality, to make good choices.

"From that point on, she's brave, she's courageous and can be the woman she was created to be," added Rither.

The outreach meets with 30 to 40 women every month in Franklin County, and roughly double that in Benton County.

The program's monthly newsletter includes a personalized letter.
Giving women like Allison a purpose.

"I just celebrated seven years clean," said Allison.

Nationwide, the program sees between 50 percent and 86 percent stay sober a full five years after they are released.