Jail outreach programs working for women

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- It's a troubling reality in the Tri-Cities, and a tax to our justice system. The rate of women in jail is jumping to new highs. But KEPR discovered, although more moms and daughters are being locked up, it's not the same faces directors are seeing return. Credit is being given to the women's outreach programs in our jails for turning lives around.

"Brandi" is married with kids. She was an engineer - your average run-of-the mill mom. You'd never guess her back story.

"I had a 4 year college degree and a good job. I was arrested three different times," said "Brandi".

It wasn't until her third strike, that Brandi realized she had a problem. Unable to bail herself out, she spent 6 months in Benton County Jail and another 6 months in the women's prison. She blames her addiction to meth.

"I definitely became a severe addict and it took over my whole life," said "Brandi".

Brandi is not alone. We pulled the numbers and found more women than ever before are ending up in jail. There's been a 10% steady increase in Benton and Franklin County Jail since 2011. Officials say they can't pinpoint a reason why other than more people moving to town.

"I was really tired of seeing the revolving door of incarceration," said Executive Director of the Tri-Cities Women's Jail Outreach.

But the pattern is changing. For as many women being incarcerated, more are seeking help.

"It's been wonderful to see the response of women this year," said Rither.

Rither says they helped 30% t more women this year than last. At the Benton County Jail, Kathy and her other volunteers meet about 45 women a week. They meet about 30 at the Franklin County Jail.

"They're so kind and so sweet to us, they're really excited, first off, that someone would come in and care and try to help. Secondly, they find out tools really helpful and successful," said Rither.

"Brandi" can vouch to that.

"Very important to me. All of these programs where the women who came in, obviously women who have other jobs and have other lives, and other things going on who chose to take time out of their day and out of their lives to give back," said "Brandi".

She says the tools from the program stayed with her, keeping her four years sober and out of jail.

Program Directors say the local women's program is working, boasting a 70% success rate of sober and free women.