“The Women’s Empowerment League (WEL) traveled on a beautiful NM morning to Crosswords for Women, a program for women coming out of incarceration to help them reintegrate into society. We had visited Crossroads once before when we brought food for their ‘movie night.’
We arrived geared up for work in their garden and were greeted by Dalilah Naranjo, the Community Engagement Coordinator for Crossroads. Dalilah spoke to us for a good 30 minutes, detailing the work of Crossroads and also sharing her personal challenges with difficult issues that included growing up with a father who struggled with incarceration and substance abuse, and also experiencing homelessness.
This conversation led us all to the unfortunate conclusion that the justice system can sometimes work in a counterintuitive manner. This thought was reinforced with a short film she shared with us called 2018 Film Project: Second Chances. The film featured touching stories about women before and after Crossroads and their life-change after Crossroads.
Many of the women Crossroads helps had been convicted of stealing what we know as basic life necessities—food and clothes for themselves and their families. They were also charged with drug-related crimes, as many use drugs to cope with past and present traumas.
These activities land them in jail, where their identity and self-worth are often stripped, and they are left in situations alone and with nowhere to turn. Dalilah used this illustration: imagine you are an adult in kindergarten—being told when to eat, when to nap, when to go outside. Add to this the fact that many of the women have dealt with substance abuse to help them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) usually resulting from traumatic childhood experiences.
Crossroads recognizes this struggle and gets involved while the women are incarcerated. They visit people while in jail and ask about their post-release plans. Crossroads can help in those situations where a women lacks access to a safe or stable environment, but the woman has to commit to remaining completely sober.
Once a woman is accepted into the program, she can consult with a case manager to sort through legal, custody, housing, and related issues. Crossroads will also help with housing and will provide vocational coaching, which helps the woman regain communication skills, especially for job interviews and things of that sort. Crossroads also offers ‘group sessions’ where women can show up to headquarters and talk about anything they are going through. This is a great outlet for the women to feel heard, gain a sense of community, and reason how to solve their problems.
The WEL group members were overwhelmed and grateful for talking with Dalilah and becoming well-informed about the impact Crossroads has on women and what action needs to happen for the justice system to better assist people getting out of jail. Everyone in WEL felt very grateful for getting to hear Dalilah’s and other women’s stories. We were excited to hear the impact of our work and all of us look forward to our future connections with Crossroads. WEL is ecstatic to call ourselves partners with Crossroads for Women, and we are eagerly anticipating all the opportunities we will have to collaborate with them in the future.” ~Arielle ‘21
Here’s what other WEL members had to say about the experience:
“Project SERVE is so important! Because of this day, we gained an awareness of women coming out of incarceration whose sense of self has been tarnished; it is important for us as a community to help them.” ~Alejandra ’21
“Crossroads has helped me see the value of opening our hearts.” ~Miel ’22
“We’ve learned more about bias within the criminal justice system, in particular laws toward women (and) how it’s not restorative justice.” ~Hawthorn ’22