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Women released from prison find a home, support

MIDDLEBURY - On Thursday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m., the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury will host a presentation about Northern Lights, a transition program for women returning from prison to everyday life in Burlington.

Presenters will include Northern Lights Program Coordinator Cara Gleason, a current program resident, and a program graduate.

The evening's discussion will touch on the creation of this new home for women; issues facing women in the criminal justice system; demographics of women at Northern Lights and in prison in Vermont; barriers to successful reentry; and stories of success and hope.

In 2005 an Offender Reentry Housing Taskforce was created to bring together leaders in Chittenden County, and called for the creation of a wide range of housing options for people returning from prison to Chittenden County. Supportive transitional housing for women was identified as a top priority and the Northern Lights Consortium was created.

Thus, Northern Lights is a collaboration of local community organizations with expertise in working with women, offenders, and housing. Under the supervision of the Department of Corrections, each woman works to develop life skills, seek employment, improve their health, and make positive connections with the support of community members, service providers, and their housemates.

The Vermont Folklife Center's Vision and Voice Documentary Gallery and Workspace extends the center's educational mission by providing a site for the planning, development and exhibition of new documentary work.

This program is being offered in conjunction with "After Attica: the Prison Portraits of Neil Rappaport," a multi-media exhibition that combines Rappaport's portraits with audio drawn from interviews with Return House participants by Erica Heilman. "After Attica" will be on display at the Vermont Folklife Center through Dec. 4.

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