Arizona home helps women rebuild lives after prison

Arizona photo
Credit: Ekkasit Rakrotchit/Shutterstock.

. Women leaving prison can face numerous challenges – from finding housing and employment despite a criminal record to repairing relationships with family members and friends.

At one women’s home in Flagstaff, Arizona, former inmates receive help getting back on their feet. The home, run by Catholic Charities, has seen so much success in its first few years that it is now planning to expand.

Since it opened in 2016, the Juniper House has helped 55 women re-enter society after leaving jail – with a sober environment, manageable rent, and the resources to get their lives on track.

The Juniper House began through a partnership developed between Catholic Charities and the local authorities.

Sandi Flores, Catholic Charities Community Services’ senior programs director for the northern offices, said the project works with the woman who have gone through Exodus, a sobriety program completed during incarceration.

“[It began with] some interest from the local sheriff department and jail folk, who were looking for an alternative for women who were exiting the substance abuse program that was offered at the jail. So we collaborated with them.”

Since women will exit the Exodus program at different times, the Juniper House staff consistently conducts interviews at the jail once a month. The house only holds eight women at a time, so there is growing wait list.

Women who going through the program will set goals, like focusing on jobs, completing their education, or reuniting with family members.

Flores said many of these women will face challenges that hinder these goals and their recovery. A criminal record may make it hard for the individuals to find work, and past friendships may push the women back into substance abuse.

The goal of the Juniper House, she said, is to minimize the stresses these women face as they exit incarceration, giving them the best possible shot at remaining substance free, finding work, and moving forward with their lives.

Residents receive free rent for the first month, followed by discounted rent. This allows them to focus on sobriety and accessing resources, like school or searching for employment.

“It gives them a chance, when they first get out, to be in a sober living environment, focus on recovery, to work at getting a job, learning to budget their funds, build some social support and social connections that don’t involve alcohol or drugs,” said Flores.

Unlike many other halfway homes, Flores said, the Juniper House allows residents a significant amount of freedom. Women who live at the house can take behavioral medication and work late if necessary. They are not removed from the program if they relapse, but instead will be coached alongside a case manager to develop a recover plan. And they are able to move at their own pace, with some staying a house for a few months, and others for up to a year.

Flores said the one of the house’s most beautiful qualities is the accountability that develops among the women. While it can be difficult for people in general to give or receive feedback, she said, the women routinely warn each other about dangerous behavior or motivate each other to find better solutions.

“They empower each other, and they support each other, and they are quick to point out when they are seeing something that is starting to go wrong.”

“We don’t want them to feel accountable to us. That’s not our role. Our role is to provide an opportunity for them and the support and resources to help themselves to permanent stability. Holding them accountable to us is not the message, is not the mission. Letting them be accountable to each other is very strong and powerful.”

According to the Catholic Sun, 50 percent of the residents are expected to gain income within 30 days and 80 percent to gain income within 60 days. Four in ten are working to reunite with their children. Last year alone, the house served 25 women.

The Diocese of Phoenix now wants to use the Juniper House as a model for similar homes across the state of Arizona. A diocesan campaign that began two years ago has raised the funds to help the project expand to Maricopa County and Yavapai County, with $1 million going toward the expansion.

Flores expressed hope that the project will continue to grow, providing more women with the opportunity for rehabilitation.

At Catholic Charities, she said, “it is always our mission to serve our community’s most vulnerable. So we are always looking to see what is that vulnerable population that is not being served.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/arizona-home-helps-women-rebuild-lives-after-prison-43714

US-Mexico border official says migrant crisis ‘at breaking point’

US-Mexico photoCentral American migrants are seen inside an enclosure in El Paso after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum

The US-Mexico border has reached “breaking point”, US officials say, amid an “unprecedented” surge in migrant numbers.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said it is “a matter of time” before tragedy strikes at one of their facilities.

More than 13,000 migrants have been taken into custody along the border just this week, he said.

Most of the migrants entering the US are families or unaccompanied children.

“On Monday and Tuesday, CBP started the day with over 12,000 migrants in our custody,” Mr McAleenan said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“As of this morning, that number was 13,400. A high number for us is 4,000. A crisis level is 6,000. 13,000 is unprecedented.”

During previous immigration surges, many of those seeking entry were single adults, the commissioner said.

But because these are family units and children, they cannot be easily repatriated and instead, are “almost guaranteed to be released to remain in the US indefinitely”.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) still do not have the capacity to detain families and children, officials said.

Mr McAleenan said his agency expects 40,000 children to enter CBP custody in March after entering the US unaccompanied, “in the hands of violent and callous smugglers”.

“We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” he added. “But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing…I fear that it’s just a matter of time.”

CBP officials are on pace to manage over 100,000 migrants this month – the highest in a month since 2008.

The agency has now redirected 750 agents from their roles at ports of entry to instead support the “humanitarian mission”.

“We have in some sectors an average of 40% of our Border Patrol agents all fully engaged in just the care, transport, and processing of migrants.”

CBP is asking for assistance from other federal agencies including the National Guard and Department of Defence to increase the capacity to process migrants.

Mr McAleenan has also asked for immediate legislative action from Congress so the agency can detain families together. as well as for the government to fix issues in the legal process for asylum seekers.

He noted that it often takes two to five years for asylum seekers to see a judge, and only around 10 to 15% of migrants actually have a legitimate claim.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47736603

Pakistan Asma Aziz: Wife who had ‘head shaved for refusing to dance’

Violence photoAsma Aziz appealed for public help in a video posted online

A Pakistani woman has publicly accused her husband of beating her and shaving her head for refusing to dance for him and his friends, in a case that has raised new concerns about women’s safety in the country.

Asma Aziz, from Lahore, made headlines when she published a shocking video on social media showing her shaven head and bruised face.

Her husband, Mian Faisal, and a servant are both in police custody. Mr Faisal has denied torture.

However, the case has prompted calls for more to be done to protect women from domestic violence.

In a tweet, Amnesty International said “systemic change” was necessary.

In her video posted on 26 March, an emotional Ms Aziz alleged that two days earlier she was tortured after refusing to dance in front of her husband’s friends who were at their house in Lahore’s upmarket Defence Housing Authority (DHA) district.

“He took my clothes off in front of his servants. The servants held me as he shaved my hair off and burned it. My clothes were bloody. I was bound by a pipe and hung from the fan. He threatened to hang me naked,” she said.

She said she went to the police to file a complaint but they procrastinated – the police deny the allegation, saying that immediately after Ms Aziz’s visit to the police station a team was dispatched to her residence but it was found locked and the DHA management prevented them from entering the premises.

Police acted only after the video came to the notice of Deputy Minister for Interior, Sheheryar Afridi, who ordered officers to register a complaint.

Mr Faisal and the servant, Rashid Ali, were arrested the following day. A preliminary medical report found multiple bruises, swelling and redness on Ms Aziz’s arms, cheeks and around her left eye.

Ms Aziz’s lawyers later pleaded that the case be tried under the stricter anti-terrorism law instead of the usual criminal procedure.

In papers filed to the Lahore police on Wednesday, the lawyers argued that the case had caused “wider restlessness and anxiety in society”.

Mr Faisal told the police last week that his wife had started cutting her hair under the influence of drugs, and that he, having also taken drugs, only helped her finish the job.

The case caused a furore on social media, with many voicing their anger at domestic violence in Pakistan.

Pakistani actress and singer Sanam Saeed was among those who spoke out in defence of Ms Aziz.

Women’s rights in socially conservative Pakistan has been a contentious topic of debate for years.

The UN’s Gender Inequality Index in 2016 puts Pakistan 147th in a list of 188 countries based on its poor record on women’s health, education, political empowerment and economic status.

Violence against women and girls remains a serious issue. Activists say official statistics do not reveal the extent of the problem – many cases go unreported.

Women’s Day marches last month brought complaints from some conservative groups. Some of the protest organisers said they received death and rape threats on social media.

Reporting by BBC Urdu’s Shahzad Malik in Lahore

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47805840

Canadian police find kidnapped Chinese student Wanzhen Lu after three-day search

China photo Chinese student Wanzhen Lu, 22, has been found by police after being kidnapped in Canada. Photograph: York Regional Police Handout/EPA

Canadian police have safely located a missing Chinese student, three days after he became the victim of a brazen stun-gun kidnapping at the hands of a violent gang.

Wanzhen Lu, 22, was found with minor injuries by police in Gravenhurst, Ontario, a city 180km (110 miles) north of Toronto on Tuesday evening.

A homeowner had called police after a young man matching Lu’s description approached him and asked for help. Lu was taken to a nearby hospital, said York regional police spokesman Andy Pattenden.

Lu was the victim of a violent abduction on Saturday evening. As he and a female friend walked through the underground parking lot of his condominium, three men attacked him, with one of them using a stun gun. Police initially described the attack –which was caught on security cameras – as violent.

Lu was dragged into a waiting black Dodge Caravan by the three men. A fourth suspect was seen waiting in the vehicle. Lu’s friend was left unharmed, but police say she was traumatised by the encounter.

Pattenden did not provide any explanation on how Lu ended up more than an hour and a half north of Markham, Ontario, where he was abducted.

Lu studies business administration at Yorkville University, reported the CBC. Lu is also known for his collection of expensive cars, which include a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Range Rover.

The brazen and seemingly unprovoked attack prompted an intense search, with police deploying aircraft as they tried to locate the missing student. Police also asked the public for possible information that might help locate Lu. A number of tips led police to the black van on Monday.

Pattenden said Lu’s parents, who travelled to Toronto after receiving news of their son’s abduction, were relived by the news of his safety. “Our investigators have been able to provide this great news to the family,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, police announced the arrest of a 35-year-old Toronto man in connection with the kidnapping. He has since been released and no charges have been laid. Police declined to comment further on what prompted the arrest.

Pattenden cautioned the investigation – which has drawn upon organised crime and intelligence units – remained ongoing, with the four suspects still at large. “We’re very concerned that they’re still out there,” said Pattenden.

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/27/canadian-police-find-kidnapped-chinese-student-wanzhen-lu-after-three-day-search

Saudi sisters leave Hong Kong for new country

Saudi photoThe sisters say they escaped during a family holiday in Sri Lanka and had intended to seek asylum in Australia [File: Aleksander Solum/Reuters]

Two Saudi sisters fleeing their family in Saudi Arabia have secured emergency visas and departed from Hong Kong after spending months in hiding, according to their lawyer.

The young women, who go by the aliases Reem and Rawan, left Hong Kong on Monday for a new country of residence, which has not been named.

Lawyer Michael Vidler said in a statement that the sisters, aged 18 and 20, were granted emergency humanitarian visas after six months in Hong Kong.

Vidler said the two are now “beginning their lives as free young women”.

The sisters say they were escaping alleged abuse by their male relatives, according to Amnesty International.

Following the news of their departure from Hong Kong, Amnesty said on Twitter that the two had shown “immense courage & took huge risks” and that they “must be allowed to build their lives without living in fear that their family or the Saudi authorities will force them back”.

The young women have drawn attention to their plight by tweeting under the name #HKSaudiSisters.

They claim they escaped while on a family trip in Sri Lanka, intending to seek asylum in Australia but were intercepted at Hong Kong airport by Saudi officials and subsequently went into hiding.

Hong Kong is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and would-be asylum seekers often languish for years as they wait to be sent to a third country.

‘Free of violence and oppression’

The sisters said in a statement that they want their story to give hope to others facing similar situations.

“We are thrilled … that we have found our way to safety to restart our lives free of violence and oppression,” they said.

The two sisters are not the first to flee Saudi Arabia and seek assistance via social media.

Such cases appear to be on the rise, with the two sisters’ story emerging a month after 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf al-Qunun drew international attention with her dramatic escape from an allegedly abusive family to eventually gain refugee status in Canada.

Saudi female runaways who flee the kingdom typically say they are trying to escape domestic abuse and male guardianship laws that bar women from obtaining a passport, travelling abroad, marrying or undergoing certain medical procedures without a male relative’s consent.

Women who are caught fleeing Saudi Arabia can be pressured to return home, arrested for disobedience or can be placed in restrictive centres.

The Saudi government and its embassies around the world do not typically comment on individual runaway cases, deeming them a “family affair”.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/saudi-sisters-leave-hong-kong-country-190325194606998.html