Gig Harbor group gives female felons a fresh start

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 21 at 6:20 PM

It's an unlikely partnership. Christina Mannering, an ex-con, and Buck Frymier, a mild mannered Rotarian. It’s a relationship, though, that has changed Mannering’s life.

“I had no life,” she said. “I had no freedom. Today I have hope, thanks to Buck.”

Mannering served 14 years at the women’s prison in Purdy for a violent attack. When she was due to be released in April she was worried what the future would bring.

“There was a couple months that I really struggled. At one point I thought it would almost be better back in prison,” she said.

When a woman is released from a Washington prison she is given $40, the clothes on her back, and a ride to the bus stop. Five-hundred women are released from prison every year in the state and two-thirds of them end up incarcerated again. Many of them are mothers and many of them end up back behind bars within a year.

“They have no skills, no confidence in themselves,” said Frymier. “That’s what we need to change.”

Frymier and his group of Gig Harbor Rotarians are doing just that. They have instituted a program in the Purdy prison where they provide mentoring, teach interview skills and build the confidence of inmates who have been emotionally and sometimes physically beaten down for much of their lives. The goal is to make them employable the day they set foot outside of prison.

“All the data seems to suggest if you get a job when you're released, the chances that you'll reoffend go way down,” said Frymier.

The program runs six weeks and is staffed by volunteers from Gig Harbor’s Rotary Club. Frymier hopes to take it statewide, but they need volunteers and mentors. The Rotarians are launching pilot programs in Pierce and King Counties. Mannering was the first graduate from the Purdy program in April. She’s still looking for work, but her life has changed dramatically.

“I have a nice boyfriend. I have my family back,” she said. “We are just people who made mistake and deserve a second chance.”

For more information go to gigharborrotary.com or email rotarywomensprison@gmail.com

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