Jail Outreach: Why This Isn’t Enough

Earlier this semester, I got to experience the rehabilitation side to prostitution through attending RISE court which is responsible for ending the endless sexual exploitation cycle of abuse, addiction, and incarceration (see blog post here). Even though each and every women’s journey through the RISE program had major struggles most of them ended positively. Last week, I got to experience a different narrative of these victims’ stories by attending Jail Outreach. The Jail Outreach program, through the Net, pairs up volunteer women with a women in the Tarrant County jail who have been sexually exploited. Volunteers go weekly to mainly provide friendship, support, and peace.  These women, unlike the women in RISE,  are still stuck in the cycle and do not usually see an end.

Outside of the Tarrant County Jail

While the volunteers were talking to the women the group from TCU got the opportunity to sit in the lobby and chat and ask questions with Remi one of the volunteer leaders. It was instantly recognizable when talking directly to Remi or listening to the group conversations that these victims are helpless and just want a better life, which is one of the main lessons I have learn throughout this semester about prostitution. These women are victims, who desperately want out of the sex industry. It was heart breaking to hear the individual situations of the women that were being visited. I gained some perspective about the situations that these women are in and it shined some light on their situations to hear about the relationships built with the volunteers and victims.

Picture via: thenetfw.com

As we asked more questions and the conversations progressed I understood the helpfulness of this program and the meaningfulness of building relationships with these women, but I couldn’t help and think about Evelyn Chumbow (find her story here) and Shamere Mckenzie (find her story here), the two women that spoke to us in class and their messages. Yes these women need support, but a 30 minute conversation with a privileged young woman who is a complete stranger isn’t going to save them from their situation. Evelyn’s story really spoke to me when I was processing this experience. Without her pro bono lawyer and employment Evelyn would have been stuck in the cycle created by her situation. Evelyn’s main message is that victims are usually exploited for their stories but are just given empathy, not actual productive help, which is what they need. These women are still in the cycle of abuse, addiction, and incarceration and they need the help that Evelyn received which was productive.

This experience opened my eyes to not only what these women are dealing with, but also what we should be doing to help them, which in my opinion should go beyond outreach programs. Implementing more programs around the nation like RISE court, finding these women meaningful employment, and fixing our legal system are more productive ways to help these women.

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