What is LEAP? Does the name stand for anything?
How do you know your program is successful? Are women who graduate from LEAP ever re-arrested?
LEAPers – the graduates of our program – learn essential life and employment skills and are able to return to their communities and their families as productive people, who love themselves and who love life. Since our inception in 2009, the recidivism rate (the percentage who return to prison) for our graduates has ranged from just 4%-7%. While statistics for women ex-offenders are vary, recidivism rates nationally range from 33%-67%.
Why does the LEAP board and staff focus on women in prison, as opposed to foster children or victims of intimate partner violence?
A growing body of research, and our experiences since 2009, have made one thing crystal clear: Women in prison have lived through some of the toughest situations. They are often one and the same as women who survive intimate partner violence and the adults who have lived through foster care. While statistics on women in prison are rare, one study conducted in New York found that 82% of women prisoners suffered serious physical or sexual abuse as children. Another, national study found that nearly 8 in 10 female mentally ill inmates report physical or sexual abuse. In fact, much of the addiction phenomenon results from an effort to self-medicate undiagnosed mental illness or trauma.
Additionally, empowering women re-entering society has strong and important ripple effects: They become active mothers, daughters, aunts, and friends again, as well as returning to work and earning a living. LEAP gives them tools that only help them gain employment, but also help them to care for their families and become active in our communities.
If you agree that empowering women leaving prison is an important mission, consider donating or becoming a mentor.
How much does your program cost? What is your overhead like?
It costs $7,000 for one LEAPer to go through our program. Compare that to the high cost of imprisonment: It can cost the state $19,577 per year to house and feed one prisoner. We are a financially lean organization with a high dependence on our volunteers and our partners. Ninety cents of every dollar donated goes directly to the programs that change the lives of LEAPers.
How does the entrepreneurship program work?
Entrepreneurship is taught along with basic employability and life skills. Dr. Anthony Sadler, a professor in the Entrepreneurial Institute of the Andrea School of Business at Barry University, teaches for 10 weeks during the eight-month program, which is presented twice a year at Homestead Correctional Institution (women from prisons throughout Florida are transferred to Homestead in order to participate). LEAP also uses the nationally-recognized “Thinking for A Change” curriculum alongside the entrepreneurship lessons. Every graduate has researched, with the help of her mentor, and written a micro business plan. The process teaches valuable skills whether they ultimately found their own business or join an existing one.
What do you look for in your mentors?
Mentors are asked to commit to a minimum of monthly prison visits for 8 months and monthly contact for the first year post-release. Many mentors engage more intimately with their mentees; in fact, many of our mentorship pairs remain friends for years. While a wide variety of people make excellent mentors, we especially look for people who are empathetic, smart, and professional. A background in business or entrepreneurship is helpful though not necessary.
What types of crimes have been committed by LEAP participants?
All of the women in LEAP serve a minimum sentence of 24 months, and have served as long as 15-20 years. Crimes range from theft and drugs to homicide. We do not exclude anyone on the basis of the crime committed, and have found that the women with the most serious offenses are just as likely to succeed as the others.
How do you select LEAP participants?
All women incarcerated at Lowell Correctional Institute, the Florida Women’s Reception Center and the Homestead Correctional Institute scheduled for release within a designated 6 month time frame are eligible to apply. Applicants complete a lengthy application and interview. LEAP only accepts women who demonstrate the willingness to change and to learn. They must also have an interest is developing a business plan. LEAP believes everyone deserves a second chance and, with the right mindset and tools, is capable of success.
Does LEAP Work With the Florida Department of Corrections?
LEAP is an independent 501(c)(3) and receives no state funding. However, LEAP is able to deliver our program pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding with the Florida Department of Corrections, which allows us to select students at all of the major Florida women’s prisons. FDOC transfers selected students to Homestead Correctional Institute, where our program takes place.