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Outpatient program teaches former female inmates to function as adults

Nick Shepherd • Feb 22, 2014 at 6:28 PM

In a converted doctor’s office in Johnson City, seven women sit around a table.

Each has an open book in front of her. Written in bold letters on the front of the book is “Parent Handbook.” This is parenting class day, and the lesson is on touching.

“This is really important,” says Judy Clark, community return coordinator for Families Free. “Early on, this teaches them what kind of touches to expect. What kind of touches to be OK with. We’re the ones that show them that love touches is what you are supposed to have.”

Last week’s lesson was spanking. Sometimes the conversation drifts back to the topic of discipline and the women’s varying opinions on it.

Clark sits at the head of the table and encourages the other six women to talk and participate. Some talk more than others.

Every woman who sits at the table is a mother. Every woman who sits at the table is a recently released inmate, and every woman who sits at the table has lost her child at one point or another.

This class is part of the Intensive Outpatient program offered by Families Free.

Families Free is a faith-based nonprofit organization that works in the Tri-Cities area. It is an outreach for women who have substance abuse problems and for their families. It was founded in 2007 by Lisa Tipton.

For an expanded version of this article, please see Sunday’s print edition or ourexpanded electronic edition.

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