Group lobbying for Family Preservation Project program instead o - KPTV - FOX 12

Group lobbying for Family Preservation Project program instead of building new women's prison

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

With lawmakers in Salem considering a proposal to build a new women's prison to address overcrowding issues at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, a group of women who have been through the corrections system themselves is lobbying for a different approach.

In late April, a couple dozen mothers who received services from the Family Preservation Project while incarcerated lobbied for a bill of rights for children of incarcerated parents.

They were able to watch as it passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate.

Christina Hulse, who served four years at Coffee Creek, said programs like the one that helped her stay connected with her daughters while in prison, should be a bigger priority than more jail beds.

"When I was in prison, my youngest had her first days at school. My oldest went through puberty, "said Hulse. "Those are monumental things that you go through, and I can't change that, but I'm at their side every day today."

Hulse said the Family Preservation Project, or "FPP," helped her learn life skills, and provided free phone calls to her daughters.

"I attribute a huge part of my success to this program," said Hulse.

Piper Kerman, whose book about her time in federal prison inspired the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black," appeared at the capitol in support of programs like FPP.

"The FPP program is unusual," said Kerman. "There's not enough of this work getting done in American prisons and jails, and it's desperately needed."

From parenting classes to life skills lessons, the program focuses on building incarcerated mothers back up.

"By the time they come to prison, they have suffered multiple forms of abuse," said Jessica Katz, FPP's Project Director. "They have suffered from addictions that have taken them to some dark places. It's hard to make the leap from being that broken to being someone's mom."

With help from FPP, Hulse said, she was able to be involved in family therapy with her oldest daughter, and nightly phone calls with her youngest, during which the two were able to read bedtime stories together.

House Majority Leader Rep. Jennifer Williamson hosted Hulse and other women who received services from FPP in her office.

"Investing in programs that keep families together and stabilize our communities is the right investment for the State of Oregon right now, not opening another women's prison," said Williamson.

Governor Kate Brown's proposed budget includes $17.5 million for a new women's prison.

The Joint Committee on Ways and Means has suggested delaying a women's prison expansion.

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