A new unit at Connecticut's York Correctional Institution was formally unveiled Monday. The specialized unit focuses on preparing young women offenders for life after prison.
The unit is called W.O.R.T.H., which stands for Women Overcoming Recidivism Through Hard Work. It houses female offenders between the ages of 18 and 25 and is modeled after a similar program at the Cheshire Correctional Institution for men.
Under the program, young offenders work with older inmates who’ve been trained and screened and help provide support and guidance.
Robin Ledbetter, 36, is among the prison’s first group of mentors. She’s been in a correctional facility since the age of 14. Ledbetter got emotional when she talked about the program, which has been operating for about a month. She said it gives her a purpose.
“I have an opportunity,” Ledbetter said. “This program lets me know I can do something. I can give back.”
In addition to developing life skills and job training, Ledbetter said the program also gives women the ability to begin to heal.
Vanessa Alvarado, 21, is a mentee and is scheduled to be released in about 3 1/2 months. For her, the program has been life-changing.
“I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life, my career,” Alvarado said. “I never had hobbies. I never had things like that. So, to learn my interests and, deep down, what’s going on inside of me - it’s been the best part of my life so far. I’m so blessed to be here.”
Governor Dannel Malloy and First Lady Cathy Malloy were on hand for the opening ceremony. They toured the facility and met with several of the 19 women participating in the program.
Correction officials said the W.O.R.T.H unit can house between 50 and 60 participants.