Women hope cuts to MODOC program don’t derail their opportunities at a second chance

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There are concerns that metro women might not get their second chance at a productive life. There's also concern whether fees the women pay after being released from prison are used properly.

The troubles all have to do with a funding cut from the Missouri Department of Corrections. Journey To New Life Inc., offers transitional living to women who now hope a lack of money won`t derail that journey.

In like a winter breeze, blows a new beginning for Sher Bialczyk.

"Oh my gosh. I love my job. I love being someone to help these other women that come here. They inspire me. I inspire them," said Bialczyk.

She’s now a manager at Journey To New Life’s journey house. Sher first came as a resident.

"I knew that I couldn`t go home. It was not a good place for me to be, but I came here and I met these wonderful people and they have inspired me to do bigger and better things with my life," said Bialczyk.

The organization started three years ago, after advocates realized there was a group of folks transitioning who were falling through the cracks.

"They`re more of a challenge, because they have a lot of barriers. They have a lot of challenges," said Sister Rose Mclarney with Journey To New Life.

In other words, the group takes the former female inmates most other organizations won`t take. That includes those with mental illness, substance abuse problems, and a history of incarceration, like Sher Bialczyk, who`s been in and out of prison four times.

After finally finding someone to believe in her, she`s currently in college working toward becoming a social worker.

"I made the dean`s list last semester, which is amazing because it had been a long, long time since I was in school," said Bialczyk.

However, she fears other women won`t get the same chance. Journey To New Life recently got word that about 20 percent of it`s budget, which it gets from the state department of corrections, has been cut.

"As of that day the funding discontinued, even though we had a contract with them," said Sister Rose Mclarney. She says the next phase part of housing it what`s taking a hit.

The organization pays three month`s worth of rent, food, and utilities for residents when they move from the facility. That way, they can save enough money to take on the responsibility themselves.

"Many of the people work fast food jobs, minimum wage jobs,” said Sister Rose Mclarney. "If they`re in substance abuse treatment, which 80 percent of them are, it`s full time when they first come out of prison. So it`s Monday through Friday, eight hours a day."

Despite a big bite out of their budget, the group does not plan to reduce services. They`ll be looking for some divine intervention.

“We`re going to pray a lot,” said Sister Mclarney.

They’re looking for donations from the community as well. In several states including Missouri, fees are collected from those on parole or probation called intervention fees. The money is designated for to provide community corrections and intervention services for offenders.

Journey To New Life fears the money the organization, and several others around the metro are being denied, could instead be going to a general state fund to help make up for state budget cuts. If you’d like to donate to Journey To New Life, click on this link, or this link.

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