Transition fair preps inmates for life outside Shakopee prison

Inmates at the Shakopee women’s prison are taking steps to set themselves up for success once they have served their time.

There are 632 women who call the Shakopee prison their home. Eventually, 95 percent of them will get out. It’s a process called transition.

Tuesday, inmates like Joella took part in a transitions fair in order to meet with organizations, who can provide help on the outside. Joella has been incarcerated at Shakopee for more than five years and her release comes in a year. She wasted no time making connections at the fair.

“So, I’m taking advantage of everything that they have here and then also using that to pick up my momentum for when I get out, so that I can be sober and a healthy mom for my kids,” said Joella.  

It’s about building support, before they get out. Without that support and a network, corrections leaders know the chance of re-offending dramatically increases.

“We also do educational classes with the women as they are about the leave prison, and the one thing we talk about is support,” said Katelyn Lambrecht, a transitions coordinator. “Whether it be support from your agent, support from your family, support from community resources because those are the people who are going to help them on track to stay out of here.”  

Housing is one of the biggest challenges. That’s where organizations such as LifeRight Outreach in Alexandria help out.

“It gives them a chance to establish themselves and feel safe, feel grounded and get the opportunity to gain independent living, especially if they’ve been incarcerated for a while to gain independent living to go on the outside and be a successful community person,” said Angela Chamberlin with LifeRight Outreach.  

It’s all about knowing how to take the right steps when the time comes.

“So, I’m a little nervous about getting out,” said Joella. “But, this is like really giving me some hope. That there is people that really want to help us success and that really care, so it’s really inspiring and really helpful.”  

There are 63 outside organizations involved with the transitions program at the Shakopee women’s prison. Every inmate within one year of release has the opportunity to get involved.