Last night I had the privilege to attend “A Call for Dignity & Transparency: The Women in VT’s Prisons”.

This panel hosted by ACLU Vermont and Women’s March VT was an enlightening discussion about prison reform through the lens of Vermont’s formerly incarcerated women. We in the audience were given a first-hand account from the women affected by a deeply dysfunctional prison system.

Several panelists spoke about the trauma to incarceration pipeline. They explained that most incarcerated woman land in legal jeopardy as a direct result of defending against or fighting against sexual, physical or emotional abuse at the hands of an abuser. Also shocking is the states $85K price tag to hold these women per year.

So how can everyday citizens get involved? As one panelist stated, “it only took three people willing to help me to transform my life.” Her healing journey was supported by generous members of the community stepping in to support her recovery and keep her on a positive track.

Last year I served on a COSA, and I would encourage you to look into it. It’s an amazing opportunity to join forces with 5 caring adults to help the formerly incarcerated build a new life.

Kienan Christianson, Burlington Vermont