As the number of women being incarcerated in our country skyrockets, Laurin Hodge believes that now is the time for conversation. The US spends more than $60 billion a year on prisons and jails, with 1-in-32 Americans under some form of correctional supervision. Thousands of Americans return back to their families and communities every day, and Mission Launch believes it is the responsibility of us all to ask: now what?
Laurin Hodge is the president and executive director for Mission Launch, a Maryland-based nonprofit that is working to help women coming home from prison have access to education, to entrepreneurship, and to community so they can get back on their feet in a faster, safer way. Mission Launch creates tools specifically for women so they are empowered to recover and reconnect because the barriers to successful re-entry after incarceration are very high.
Laurin knows that “Orange is the New Black” may be entertaining, but as a society we need to talk about the reality of female incarceration. She knows first-hand the effects that incarceration takes on families, from financial issues to relationship issues. To help solve these problems and to help other families, Laurin uses research, community awareness, and engagement to move marginalized communities closer to the core.
Mission Launch is currently in the process of launching a new signature program, which is designed to support mostly women, but some men, as they return home from prison and jail and as they seek to either return to the workforce or launch a business of their own. For the last year, Laurin has loosely worked with a handful of returning citizens, but they are working towards a much more structured program of 20 individuals who will be able to receive formal education by way of the University of the District of Columbia.
Alongside this new program, Mission Launch also already has a clothing initiative and digital storytelling initiative. They collect clothing items to distribute to women so that they can start over with items that reflect their new life as well as use the donated goods to fund their community based work. The digital storytelling campaign works to support an intergenerational dialogue between women who have been incarcerated and cohorts who have spent time in a U.S. prison or jail.
It is Mission Launch’s belief that if young women understand that the rates of incarceration among women have increased by 813% in the last three decades, they would join the national dialogue on prison and prison re-entry reform. Education on these issues is a key part of Mission Launch. They have built online networks with resources and peer mentorships to connect women who have gone through similar situations and to be an outlet of resources, help, and support.
Laurin believes she has the power to shape the future so that citizens are restored to productive participation after prison. She innovates so that our country restores women, families, and communities in a more holistic manner.
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