By Cassandra Hein
After Orange: Halfway Home is a transitional home for women getting out of prison and jail in Las Vegas, Nevada. http://www.afterorange.org/
My sister Jamie and I grew up in a loving home with loving parents. We weren’t exposed to the judicial system throughout our childhood. When Jamie was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison, we had no idea what to expect. Her entry into Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center (FMWCC) was the beginning of our experience with the correctional system.
Upon Jamie’s incarceration, I completed the paperwork necessary to visit her. I received my approval a short time later and immediately went to visit. I’ve continued to visit regularly in the ten years since then. Throughout the past decade, Jamie and I have observed so many extreme flaws in the system. Each time we visit, we discuss the things we can do to make a difference.
With 2.3 million people incarcerated in our country and a 68% recidivism rate, we wanted to know what circumstances were causing this terrible cycle. In order to find out, we came up with a concept to follow people as they left prison. We wanted to know where they would go, what they would do, and who they would hang out with. So, I started documenting women as they left FMWCC. I called the project After Orange.
It has been over 3 years since the project began, and the experience has been both informative and alarming. I have witnessed a variety of behaviors from the women I’ve interviewed and followed; reconnecting with friends and family, completing the Hope for Prisoners program, turning to prostitution, and dipping back into old behaviors. We have learned about countless problems and issues in and around the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC).
One of these issues is the unanswered demand for housing when women are released. Jamie and I both wanted to help create a solution to this. On November 1st, 2016, I opened “After Orange: Halfway Home”; a nonprofit transitional home for women being released from prison. We have the desire to help women who are ready for change; partnering with community organizations like Hope For Prisoners, LV Urban League, Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT), Larson’s Training Center, NV CURE, and God Behind Bars. We also work with the law-enforcement and legal communities, including Metropolitan Police Department, Department of Parole and Probation, LV public defenders, private practicing lawyers, and the District Attorney’s office. We’ve cultivated a healthy daily program with a set curfew, daily house meetings, home maintenance, substance abuse support, spiritual avenues, and structured life mapping. We bring experts into our home to provide guidance and assistance with healing trauma. The purpose of all of this is to help women live their absolute best lives while giving back to their community. There is accountability in our home, primarily driven by our residents keeping each other “in-check”. In addition, we have a documentary series about these women on their journeys after incarceration. The series helps generate public awareness and provide extra accountability to the women.
After Orange: Halfway Home is only for women who want to live their absolute best lives. My sister and I are committed to bringing positive change to the prison culture in our country. Our vision of changing the lives of female ex-offenders is taking shape. Jamie goes to the parole board in March of 2017. Upon release, she will be assisting to move this project forward from the outside.