ST. LOUIS — Since 1980 the incarceration rate for women in Missouri has increased by 700%. The organization Keyway Center for Diversion and Reentry in the St. Louis area is about making sure women don’t go back to jail once they serve their time.
Keyway offers resources to women who leave prison. Executive Director April Foster said women know where they want to go, but they just need direction. She said Keyway provides a pathway in a highly structured and successful environment.
“When we look at our two-year incarceration rate were at a low 10.2 % that compared to 31% average for the state of Missouri,” said Foster.
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Keyway provides housing, food cards, bus passes to get to interviews, education, and whatever the women needed. Niesha Hampton recently graduated from the program after three years of incarceration.
“We really didn’t have to provide anything for ourselves. It was all provided for us which lifted a major burden off my shoulders,” said Hampton. “I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to eat or where I was going lay my head.”
Keyway advocate director Barbara Baker plays a vital role in helping young women. After beating a 25-year heroin addiction and serving five prison sentences. She walked out of prison in 1995 dedicating her life to helping others.
“I would come out of jail, I would get a job, I would get a house, I get my children and I would relapse,” said Baker. “Because I was doing what society said I should come out and do. I didn’t get a chance to heal Barbara and do the work that needed to be done.”
On Tuesday, Keyway was awarded a $500,000 grant provided by the Lutheran church and We Raise Foundation. The financial support will help solidify what the organization does. Currently, they are able to house 66 women and help a total of 150 per year.