Impact: Benevolence Farm

North Carolina / Aug. 14, 2012 / by Gelb
Impact: Benevolence Farm

Even after leaving prison, it is difficult to escape the stigma associated with incarceration. For women leaving incarceration, the task to reintegrate is even tougher. Benevolence Farm will seek to take that problem head-on.

"Most job applications include the question about having ever been arrested and/or convicted of a crime and that means most of these women don’t even get an interview, even for the lowest paying work."

Tanya Jisa, a social worker, had an idea after attending a conference on farming. She had attended just as "a local food aficionado/cook, and began to think of the benefits that living and working on a farm could bring to some of the women I had worked with throughout my career in social work."

What started as an idea had taken root and started to grow: Benevolence Farm - a working farm that will provide women exiting incarceration "safe, stable housing and a job that pays a living wage.  They’ll also receive services, based on their individual needs, such as family reunification, counseling, drug and alcohol addiction recovery, nutrition and wellness, financial literacy, and career development." 

By utilizing the farm dynamic, it is Jisa's mission to provide an opportunity for women leaving prison to "grow food, nourish self, and foster community" 

"Once they leave the program, they’ll be able to apply those skills and build upon a career."

There are many obstacles women face upon leaving incarceration. The two biggest ones pertain to employability and housing. "An employed re-entrant is three times less likely to return to prison than an unemployed re-entrant."

In North Carolina, more than 3,500 women leave prison every year. Overcrowding and recidivism are common, and the cost is high to keep someone in prison. Transitional living programs like The Benevolence Farm costs, "about $12,000 less per person per year" according to Jisa. 

Providing a place that offers job training as well as emotional support is key to readying these women for reintegration. 

The driving force behind Jisa is grounded in her own experiences, "I feel very grateful that my path has led me to a place where I’m able to give something back, to help people who didn’t have the chances I had."

As something so ambitious, she is amazed by the amount of enthusiasm the idea has spurred, "It’s really been amazing to see the level of support and enthusiasm people have for Benevolence Farm."

So far, Jisa and her organization are in the "ground and grow" phase of the project. They have successfuly formed the nonprofit and have received seed money to start them on their way to achieving their dream. What's next? "Hopefully land!"

More information about Benevolence Farm can be found through their website and Facebook page. Please contact us for contact information.