No longer ‘broken’: Pilot program helps incarcerated women overcome trauma

Story Body

Even when Tanya Quinata entered the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Pierce County, she worried about the stigmas people would attach to her after her release.

Before entering prison, she saw herself as a taxpaying citizen who always worked hard to take care of her children. Now she was someone with a criminal record, serving an 11-year sentence.

While in prison, however, Quinata is working to confront that stigma — as well as the trauma from her past.

“I have always been really reserved about why I’m here, and I never spoke out about it … but I am a victim of domestic violence,” she said.

Stories like Quinata’s are common within the walls of the women’s corrections center and in women’s prisons across the nation. Stories of abuse, mental illness and poverty abound — and they differ from those of incarcerated men.

According to the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women, up to 98 percent of incarcerated women have experienced trauma in their lives, 73 percent have a mental health problem, 60 percent say they abused drugs just prior to committing their offense and up to 50 percent were homeless in the month before their arrest. Of all women arrested nationwide, only 3 percent are arrested on suspicion of a violent crime, according to the institute.

But a two-year pilot program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women is helping Quintana and other women work on the underlying problems that helped lead to their incarceration.

It’s called the Personal Reentry Education Plan (PREP), and it was written in partnership with incarcerated women. Now in its second year, the course has enrolled nearly 100 women.

“A lot of us don’t just make last-minute decisions to commit a crime,” Quinata said. “Somewhere in our lives, whether we were young and whether we were molested or in a domestic violence relationship, somewhere along our path in life, we were broken. … We’re going to do the same things over and over again if we don’t have those issues addressed.”

Read the rest of the story on the governor's Medium page.

Media Contacts

Tara Lee
Governor Inslee’s Communications Office