Carson City looks to help incarcerated women | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson City looks to help incarcerated women

Teri Vance
Special to the Nevada Appeal

Speaking to a group of women community leaders and advocates, Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong asked a rhetorical question: "When was the first time you were a victim?"

He said law enforcement officials are trying to understand women's experiences are typically different from men's experiences, and that changes how they interact in a jail.

By the time a woman is arrested, she's often had a lengthy history of abuse and is wary of men in authority roles.

"That's what we're taking into account," Furlong said. "The female population is not the same as the male population. We're not even speaking the same language in that jail, and when we don't speak the same language we tend to do more harm than good."

Furlong introduced Emily Salisbury, an expert in female interaction with the criminal justice system, as part of a workshop designed to better understand the processes for women in incarceration.

"It doesn't mean people shouldn't be held accountable, but maybe there's a need for training in a trauma-informed care model," Salisbury explained. "It's pretty sickening to know how much trauma these women have suffered. It's absolutely transformed the way we do corrections.

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"It's not just sitting around and singing 'Kumbaya,' it's addressing the problem in an effective way."

The Carson City Sheriff's Office, along with Carson City Health and Human Services and Partnership Carson City, sponsored the workshop July 12.

Attendees represented agencies across the spectrum, including corrections, community health, law enforcement and other advocates.

"This is something that doesn't happen in other communities," Salisbury said. "It tells me this community has an ability to cross agencies and systems. It tells me there is awesome collaboration happening here already."

While a complete overhaul of the system is not practical, she said, there are small changes that could make big differences.

She suggested some curriculum changes to addiction-recovery programs, where the women are empowered to take control of their disease.

"You have to have a program that is holistically based," she said. "The addiction is related to mental health and trauma."

When done right, it can have a monumental impact.

"When it's done effectively, we see double the effect on recidivism, the same as reducing a cardiac event after a cardiac bypass surgery," Salisbury said.