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Tapestry: women weaving their way co recovery.

One of the last stops in the life of a chemically dependent woman is all too often incarceration. Chemical dependency impacts far more than the addicted woman. It taxes families, communities and our society as a whole. Restoring the life of an addicted female is not just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol; it is a holistic change.


Due to the increasing number of incarcerated women and the high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse among those women, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS) and CompDrug Corporation came together to address these issues and their impact on recidivism. The Tapestry Therapeutic Community is a result of that effort.


Created in 1991, Tapestry Therapeutic Community (Tapestry) is located inside the walls of the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio. The Tapestry program is provided by CompDrug Inc., a nonprofit agency offering comprehensive services in prevention, intervention and treatment for people with substance abuse problems. The program serves 90 alcohol/drug dependent females and 20 alumnae residents. Most recent demographics from the Tapestry program's internal database indicate considerable changes in the program population. As indicated by Tables 1 and 2, women entering prison are younger, commit more drug-related crime and experience more victimization then 20 years prior. Tapestry's mission is to help these women to change the direction of their lives durin their incarceration.
Table 1: 1993 Tapestry Therapeutic Community
Participants--Demographics (168 total Former program members)

Race                  40% Caucasian, 59%
                      African-American, 1%, other

Age                   36% ages 20-29 years, 46% ages
                      30-39 years. 18% ages 40+

Marital status        41% single. 19% divorced and
                      26% married. 10% separated. 4%

Children              13% with no children. 68% with
                      one to three; 19% with four or
                      more (do not know ayes of

Education             43% did not finish high school*
                      57% did finish

Victimization         50% domestic violence victims.
                      1% child abuse victims

First drug of choice  16% all opiates. 42% cocaine
                      (including crack cocaine j 23%
                      Alcohol. 12% marijuana. 7%
                      other drugs

Previous              73%

Crimes                26% drug-related. 54% properly
                      crimes and 20% violent crimes

Sentence duration     49% < 24 months, 17% 24 to
                      48 months and 34% > 48

Table 2: 2010 Tapestry Therapeutic Community Participants
-- Demographics (138 total new program members)

Race                  83% Caucasian, 14%
                      African-American. 3% other

Age                   46% ages 20-29 years, 30% ages
                      30-39 years, 30%. ages 40-

Marital slams         46% single, 20% divorced and
                      20% married, 12% separated, 2%

Children              15% with no children. 72% with
                      one to three children, 13% with
                      4 or more children (do not know
                      ages of children)

Education             46% did not finish Inch school,
                      54% did finish

Victimization         62% domestic violence victims.
                      25% child abuse victims. 37%
                      rape victims

First drug of choice  29% heroin, 11% other opiates,
                      21% cocaine (including crack
                      cocaine), 17% Alcohol, 16%
                      Marijuana, 6% oilier drugs

Previous              35%

Crimes;               4l% drug-related, 42% properly
                      crimes and 17% violent crimes

Sentence duration     12% < 24 months, 75%, 24 to
                      48 months and 13% > 48

The therapeutic community is designed to provide a 24-hour learning experience in which individual changes in conduct, attitude and emotions are monitored by peers, known as "sisters," and confronted or reinforced as appropriate. This helps participants examine and change the psychological, intellectual and behavioral patterns that contribute to their addictions. Intensive group therapy, which includes encounters, feelings groups, topic groups and seminars, is the foundation of the therapeutic community. Members must participate in both supportive and confrontive groups during which their negative behaviors and addiction issues are addressed. These sessions help to cultivate and nurture trust, self-disclosure and solidarity, which give rise to therapeutic change. "I have learned how to live all over again," said an alumnus of the program. "I have discovered the real me and I like me today and I am learning to love myself for the first time in my life."


As a continuum of care, the Tapestry program looks at the importance of keeping former members connected to the community. This was achieved through the creation of the Tapestry Alumnae. In the spring of 1995, Program Director Candace Paulucci, Ph.D., and Program Supervisor Annette Dominguez contacted previous Tapestry members to encourage them to reunite to discuss the importance of maintaining their connections and support with the Tapestry program and each other. The first successful alumna meeting was held at CompDrug Inc. About 10 women from the central Ohio area attended. Today, there are 516 "outside" alumnae members.

The incarcerated alumnae are those women who have spent a minimum of six months in the program, and have successfully made a transition back into general population. Known as "inside" alumni, these members work together by utilizing their own treatment experiences to determine what topics to share with their programming peers. They meet with the coordinator weekly to address issues and discuss community service projects, aftercare needs and new ways to give back to the sisters in treatment. This process of "giving back" allows the inside alumnae member to not only stay connected, but to also stay vigilant in her own personal growth. These women are responsible for presenting seminars as a group or on an individual basis to the current Tapestry family, enabling them to get to know their sisters in the program. These special presentations focus on core treatment issues such as self-esteem, codependency, domestic violence and parenting. The alumnae also assist current members with assignments and related exercises, and attend program meetings and events whenever possible.

The women in Tapestry are also given the opportunity to connect with their outside alumnae sisters as soon as they begin the program. They are encouraged to begin a support network with their alumnae sisters. The members can mail three letters per month, at no cost, as long as they are sent to an alumnae sister and/or aftercare facilities. Alumnae members may correspond with current Tapestry sisters. They frequently send cards and letters which are read in community meetings. Inside alumnae and current programmers may also correspond individually with outside alumnae members. The outside alumnae frequently visit as guest speakers to provide insight and support on the realities of reentry. Additionally, members keep in touch by utilizing the alumnae Facebook page and directly emailing the alumnae coordinator. This provides a comprehensive networking system that keeps members connected and available to assist each other as needed.

The reentry process begins as Tapestry counselors refer members to the alumnae coordinator to discuss aftercare options. The women have access to "community liaison" files, which contain information regarding resources and aftercare facilities for all 88 counties in Ohio. The alumnae coordinator will then follow up on contacts with facilities, conduct site visits of various facilities (thereby increasing the placement opportunities, direct referrals, initiate intake process, coordinate with case managers from the institution regarding placement and outdates), and coordinate transportation to aftercare through the facility or outside alumnae assistance.

Prior to being released, if a member wishes to be an outside alumnae sister, she will complete a release-of-information form, enabling others to contact her at the aftercare facility or home. Using her contact information, the program staff sends the sister a "welcome home packet." This packet is mailed out in time to meet the sister at her destination. If the sister is going directly to another facility, the alumnae list is not sent to that facility and will only be sent when the sister is at her residence. The packet contains Tapestry's contact information, the flyer to the next alumnae meeting in her area, an explanation of outside alumnae events and the alumnae list of more than 500 sisters, from whom she has immediate support.

As the sister prepares for her transition from Tapestry, she realizes the importance of aftercare and works diligently with the alumni coordinator to build a strong network of support. One essential element to a member's reentry success is the involvement and support of her family. Tapestry's Family Component program helps clients reintegrate with their families upon release from prison. As many as three of a Tapestry sister's family members are permitted to join their loved one for three full-day training sessions (one per week for three consecutive weeks). The sessions are facilitated by Tapestry staff and cover vitally important topics such as understanding addiction, communication skills, healthy relationships and relapse warning signs. The program also educates families about the treatment provided to these women, so that they will be better equipped to help them successfully continue their recovery upon reentry into society.

Another essential element to a member's reentry success is her continued involvement in support meetings. The alumnae coordinator meets with the alumnae monthly in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, Portsmouth, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Lima and Zanesville. These meetings provide a safe environment for the sisters to share their struggles post-release, gain resource information from the older sisters attending, share successes and offer assistance to one another, such as providing clothing or employment opportunities. Alumnae demonstrate their commitment and determination through their willingness to share themselves and their experiences with each other. In addition to area meetings, the alumnae groups meet during the year for other events. There are two perennial events, the Annual Community Family Picnic and the Tri-Holiday Potluck gathering. Members bring their children and other family members, further demonstrating the crucial role that family support plays in their continued recovery.

Since it was established, the Tapestry Alumnae has grown exponentially, reaching far beyond the initial expectations. Numerous national and international experts have long suggested the concept of the Tapestry Alumnae be expanded through publications and trainings. Countless facility directors and staff have requested assistance in developing their own alumnae association. Unfortunately, Tapestry's ability for expansion and training has been hindered by funding limitations.


Recently, ODRC conducted a comparative study of two prison-based therapeutic communities, the OASIS Program at Pickaway Correctional Institution in Orient, Ohio, and the Tapestry Therapeutic Community. It was determined that from 2006 to 2009, upon receiving judicial release from prison (with a one year post-release follow-up), Tapestry members recidivated at a rate of only 8.3 percent. Additionally, only one percent of members released on parole returned to prison. Tapestry feels strongly that the program's degree of success is due to the ability of ex-offender alumnae to personally relate to the experiences and challenges offenders face after release.

Additionally, Tapestry has provided various forms of training for professionals throughout Ohio and other parts of the country. Since 1995, Tapestry's Five Day Immersion Training provides a unique opportunity to experience the therapeutic community process through participation rather than observation. This week-long training is designed for professionals who wish to gain an understanding of therapeutic communities through actual hands-on experience within the Tapestry program structure. The professional is paired up with a "big sister" who mentors him or her during the week, assisting the professional in his or her experiential learning and acquainting him or her with the basic therapeutic community concept. These professionals are immersed in the programming structure of the Tapestry community, where they receive assignments and guidance, as are the residents of the program, in order for them to gain a clear understanding of the treatment modality within the setting, imposed by institutional limitations. To date, Tapestry has trained 448 professionals.

As the Tapestry program approaches its 20th anniversary, there are compelling reasons to share its history and accomplishments with others. The members of the Tapestry staff have been the recipients of countless awards and accommodations. These include:

*The Recovery Services Award from the Ohio Drug and Alcohol Studies Institute in Ashland, Ohio, 1998;

* The Recognition Award for Programs to Tapestry staff from Correctional Health Care (a combined Bureau of Mental Health, Recovery Services and Medical Services within the ODRC), March 1999;

* Program recognition by Gov. Bob Taft, July 2001;

* Tapestry was highlighted on a week-long Ohio News Network series covering ODRC programs and services;

* A presentation on Tapestry at the 2004 World Conference on Therapeutic Communities in New York City;

* Ohio Therapeutic Community Association Therapeutic Community Affirmation Award, Spring 2010; and

* A National Geographic spotlight on Tapestry for the series "Hard Time," which aired in 2011.

Prison life for women is difficult enough. However, prison life further complicated by a history of addiction virtually assures recidivism and a greater cost to society. 11 an incarcerated woman is willing to work on and participate in her own recovery, Tapestry can be the bridge to a brighter future. "My sisters in the program helped me to face some hard truths about myself, my life and helped me to heal," said B.J., a Tapestry alumnus. "I don't know where I'd be or what my life would be like without them."

Candace Paulucci, Ph.D., LCDC-III, is the director of the Tapestry Therapeutic Community and Annette Dominguez, LCDC-III, is the program supervisor for the Tapestry Therapeutic Community.
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Title Annotation:Tapestry Therapeutic Community
Author:Paulucci, Candace; Dominguez, Annette
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U3OH
Date:Feb 1, 2012
Previous Article:Research and retrenchment: integrating data and evaluation into today s correctional environment.
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