By Lauren Wanko
In Prison reform New Jersey is a national leader in reducing the prison population and reducing crime. The key to that are prisoner re-entry programs that provide newly released prisoners with second chances, homes, help and jobs. One is a collective of women finding redemption while Chasing the Dream.
“I was given a second chance to get my life back and I’m taking it,” said Ranu Sinha.
Ranu, a cancer survivor, started taking prescribed pain medications and soon after become addicted to heroin.
“I caught charges due to my addiction, and as a result I was recommended to do drug court. They asked me to come here,” she said.
Redeem-Her’s transitional house was launched in 2007 by a former inmate. The non-profit provides support services to women coming out of incarceration and rehab.
“I really don’t know where my life would be if I didn’t move into the house,” said Jennifer from Brick.
Jennifer used to live in the home. She’s since moved back in with her mom and son. She works part-time at Redeem-Her’s thrift store, Second Chances Boutique in Neptune City. All of the profits go back to Redeem-Her. Deborah Child shops here often.
“It just makes you feel good inside that you’re helping somebody,” Child said.
“Everything we do, everything that happens here, everything that happens there is an investment. It’s an investment in these women’s future,” said Prudence White, chairman and trustee of Redeem-Her.
Up to eight women can live in the Toms River home. It’s self-governed and there’s a house president. Resident are subject to mandatory meetings and random drug tests. The women pay their own rent.
“This is all about learning responsibility and accountability again,” said White.
“I needed the stability and the structure of the housing. I really didn’t know how to do things in my life without using drugs,” Jennifer said. “I got to be around other women going through the same struggles I was going through.”
Ranu’s lived here for about four months.
“My life has gotten a lot better,” she said. “I work. I go to the gym. I’m sober.”
Second Chances Boutique is filled with everything from clothing, to furniture, to books. All the items are donated. Over the years many of the women have worked in store.
“For some women who work in this store, this is the first legitimate job they’ve ever held,” White said.
Jennifer’s managed to land another job after gaining valuable work experience in the thrift store.
“They really helped me get back on my feet and learn how to live again. I didn’t know how to love myself or care for myself and they showed me,” Jennifer said.
Redeem-Her recently launched a new scholarship program to assist women with any cost related to continuing their education — like getting their high school diploma, college tuition or a technical program. It’s funded by donations and through their fundraising efforts.
“We estimate we have about a 46 percent success rate and that’s big in the world of recovery and addiction. We define success rate as reunification with family, steady and continued employment, sobriety and becoming financially independent,” said White
Ranu hopes to get her own apartment in three to six months.
“When women come out of rehab, or they come out of jail or institutions, a lot of times they go back to old people, places and things,” she said. “By starting at Redeem-Her, they start a new life. That’s what I did for myself. It’s not easy, but I do it. I manage.”
Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.