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Girl Scouts launches Beyond Bars program in Orleans

Beyond BarsGirl Scouts Louisiana East has joined 30 other Girl Scout councils nationwide in offering the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program to girls and their incarcerated mothers.  The program, which was launched in Orleans Parish in October, is designed to help re-establish family bonds, and to teach leadership, healthy living, and financial literacy skills to both parties, ultimately helping the mothers after their incarceration, and subsequently reducing the recidivism rate.

Local Girl Scout council members, led by volunteer Beyond Bars coordinator Suzanne Mayo-Theus and Outreach Director Dianne Rose, met with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Director Of Regional Re-Entry and Rehabilitation Services Leo Hayden, and Warden of the Female Division, Colonel Anella Joseph, as well as community partners like the Tulane Parenting Center for the last five months to prepare for the October launch.

Mayo-Theus, who was involved with the Beyond Bars program in Maryland and Kansas, has been a strong advocate for getting the program offered to Girl Scouting in her home state of Louisiana.  Plans include for the program to eventually expand to the women’s prison in St. Gabriel.

“Beyond Bars is a powerful reunion of the mothers and their daughters,” said Mayo-Theus, who recalls how her own Girl Scout troop of 19 girls in Washington D.C. had 17 members with someone in their family who was incarcerated.

National findings show that about 65 percent of girls who participate in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars say that since they were in the program they get in less trouble, do better in school, and make healthier choices, such as eating better foods and quitting smoking.

According to Rose, while the number of girls and mothers in the program will vary, there are approximately 12 girls,Beyond Bars 2 ranging from 7-13 years old, and 13 mothers registered for the Beyond Bars program which will meet monthly at the Orleans Parish Prison for eight months. Mothers and their daughters take an active leadership role in the planning of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, a process that fosters life skills and personal growth.

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars was established in 1992 as a partnership between the National Institute of Justice and the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, and has grown to serve thousands of girls across the country. According to advocacy and research group The Sentencing Project, there are 1.7 million children – half of them under the age of 10- with a parent in prison.

For more information about the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program, contact Rose at the council office in New Orleans at 504-733-8220, ext. 2255, or drose@gsle.org

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