“Re-entering the community after time spent in prison is overwhelming. Many times, women are afraid of the unknown as they face extremely difficult barriers to securing living wage employment, safe housing, reuniting with their children and access to healthcare. Our rapport with WIND has helped to diminish some of those fears by providing our residents with tools that strengthen their confidence and outlook for the future. We applaud the commitment of WIND.” — Tammie Morris, Former Program Director, St. Leonard’s Ministries – Grace House
Almost 2 million women and girls are released from prisons and jails each year, and strategies for successful re-entry are critical for them and our communities. What is the best way to empower a woman with a history of incarceration?
WIND’s curriculum was created by a team with a wide variety of professional skill sets: design innovation; university teaching; homeless agency management; marketing, finance and development experience. The content has a balance of conceptual building blocks from each of those areas, including practical topics (“Essential Skills”) and problem-solving drawn from the field of Design Thinking. Workshop participants learn how to use skills from these areas to avoid recidivism.
In mid-2019, WIND launched its first workshop at a recovery home for women on the near west side of Chicago. This welcoming residence for ex-offenders supports up to 18 women at a time and provides myriad services. WIND meets in small groups of women and provides group facilitation to help craft new and positive life visions. During COVID, we have been meeting virtually.
Using a flexible curriculum to fit different stages of their recovery, WIND provides resources and workshops to women in the areas of job training, communication, and life skills.
WIND workshops focus on Essential Skills, such as developing a personal brand – who are you and how to talk about what makes you special. Other practical topics covered include creating multiple “roadmaps” of options for the future, communicating effectively, preparing for job interviews, and financial literacy.
WIND also incorporates elements of Design Thinking used by design educators at such universities as Stanford and Northwestern; these help people think outside of their typical mindset and imagine multiple paths for their futures.
Our content has been piloted successfully with the Cook County Department of Corrections and a residential transition home for women who have exited the Illinois correctional system.
Sample of WIND’s Curriculum
Building a Better You (Design Your Future)
Reframing dysfunctional beliefs: Turning negatives into positives
Creating your compass
Your journey to the future
Making an action plan to achieve your goals
Communicating who you are: Why you are a terrific person and what are your strengths
Developing a personal brand: What’s important to you, some of the challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them.
Preparing an elevator speech: For interviews and networking
Presenting yourself: How you dress and act (body language) and what you post on social media
Effective workplace communications: Anticipating solutions for on-the-job challenges and how to deal with conflict
Setting financial goals and developing a budget Understanding the emotional component to spending/saving
Differentiating between needs and wants: Is that really a necessity or is it calling your name?
Budgeting apps: To help achieve your financial goals
Banking do’s and don’ts; What to expect from your banking relationship, scams and hidden fees
Writing for Renewal: Guided free-writing for healing, self-discovery, greater confidence and employment preparation
Reflecting on my uniqueness – “Who I Am” or “Where I’m From”
Seeing different perspectives – “Me and the Mirror”
“Finding peace around me” – writing about a favorite place
“My migrations” – physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual; sharing my journeys
WIND serves women from both jails and prisons. Jail can be used to describe a place for those awaiting trial or held for minor crimes, whereas prison describes a place for those who have been convicted of crimes.