Better Decisions
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615-832-8327
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PO Box 120754
Nashville, TN 37212
Organization Details

Statements

Mission

Our mission is to teach and foster decision-making and life-planning skills among women who are incarcerated, and others expressing interest, by means of a structured curriculum delivered by trained volunteers. The ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism among female offenders and to break the inter-generational cycle of crime by teaching women (most of whom are mothers) how to gain more control over their lives by setting goals, deciding rather than reacting, and making and sticking to concrete plans for changing their attitudes and behaviors.

Background

Better Decisions began in 1985, when a concerned and knowledgeable community volunteer (Candy Markman) observed that women leaving prison had an especially difficult time making the transition back into the community. Most of these women struggle with substance abuse, and many have a history of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. More than 50% lack a high-school diploma or GED. Institutionalization strips away opportunities for decision-making; and yet, upon release, these women are expected to find housing, jobs, and rejoin their families and communities as fully functioning members. While searching for a pre-release program that would better prepare women for release, Ms. Markman discovered a 12-week, co-ed decision-making curriculum that she brought to Nashville and later tailored to become the 9-week, female-oriented program that we know today as Better Decisions. She recruited community volunteers as mentors, and began the first cycle at the TN Prison for Women (TPW) in January 1985. Initially a program under the umbrella of other nonprofits, Better Decisions incorporated as a 501(c)3 in March 1999. Twice a year, Better Decisions trained 25-30 new volunteers to serve at TPW during a weekend workshop in Nashville. (The Board voted in 2007 to limit training events to once per year to increase efficiency and decrease costs, and to focus more on volunteer retention.) We now recruit & train women volunteers once per year in a one-day workshop. Volunteers are then matched with inmates at the Tennessee Prison for Women who have voluntarily signed up for the program. The 9-week semester include two components: (1) weekly classes, taught by two experienced volunteer teachers, in which 10-20 student inmates learn a 5-step decision-making model, and (2) mentoring sessions (1-to-1), in which each inmate meets with her trained volunteer mentor to practice and reinforce the skills she learned on Monday night. Both teachers and volunteer mentors use a structured curriculum. Since its inception in 1985, more than 1,500 student inmates have graduated from Better Decisions, and nearly 1,200 volunteers have served as teachers & mentors to them.

Impact

While they were still incarcerated, we trained some of the women making headlines in TN Correctional System in 2018. We are so proud to have played a part in their future success! One (1) in every 3 BD students was granted parole or released from prison (2016-17 data). Recent graduates said, "I've learned to think for myself more;" and, "This class was a great resource for short-term and long-term goals." We believe in the power of women helping women make Better Decisions in a pre-release program that equips women for life.Immediate impact of our work is shown in parole success, with at least two (2) student graduates being granted parole in each of 3 cycles, our fall cycle graduating 9 paroled residents. Inmates parole hearings are held at different times for students in a class, and not all are inmates eligible for hearings annually, so individual outcomes will signal success. We plan to track parole approval rates more closely in future, as we are told the Parole Board weighs BD participation. Goals for 2018-19:Secure funding for capacity-building, to expand our scope to serve more female prisoners & reach new populations. Conduct an entire curriculum review, directed by a volunteer committee, to revise our proprietary training program.Continue to evaluate programmatic aims & outcomes, by way of gathering data & gauging impact among graduates.Approve a new Strategic Plan for Better Decisions.

Needs

1. Technical expertise in editing, formatting & adopting curriculum revisions for Volunteers & Student's Guides 2. Financial support to expand Better Decisions into women's community programs and prevention programs3. Promotional and branding support for awareness-building campaigns, in general 4. Resources for technological enhancements to expand training and development for volunteers5. Internships for research assistance (follow-up and longitudinal analysis of graduates)

CEO Statement

Since 1985, our organization has been singularly focused on helping disadvantaged women make better decisions. Our Mission is: Empowering Women to Succeed. Please join us!


Service Categories

Primary Category: Education  - Adult Education 
Secondary Category: Crime & Legal - Related  - Inmate Support 
Tertiary Category: Crime & Legal - Related  - Crime Prevention 

Areas Served

We serve women housed at the TN Prison for Women (TPW) in Nashville, one of three (3) state prisons for females in Tennessee (the others are in Memphis and in Bledsoe County). TPW is located in north Nashville, in the Bordeaux area, near the intersection of Briley Parkway and Ashland City Highway. While a majority of our students reside in Davidson County before or after prison, we serve eligible Tennessean women from all jurisdictions who find themselves residents of TPW.

TN
TN - Davidson