The only women's supervision center in the state of Missouri is helping change lives in Fulton.
The Women's Fulton Community Supervision Center held its open house Wednesday morning to give a look into the work they've been doing since opening in February. Operated by the Missouri Department of Corrections, the center offers a 120-day, four-phase program tailored to meet each resident's assessed needs, tackle intensive employment-readiness prep work, provide on-site substance use disorder services and much more, according to officials.
"Men tend to have different pathways to prison than women. Usually a woman's pathway isn't so direct; it kind of depends. We deal with the aspect of trauma that they might have and get to the root cause of that trauma," said Shannon Kimsey, district administrator at the Fulton Women's CSC.
Probation and parole officer David Nieland outlined the qualifications individuals must meet to be eligible for treatment. Some of these include not being a lifetime discharged sex offender, being 18 years or older, being under supervision for a felony offense, not being in need of detox inpatient treatment, and not having a significant medical or mental health issue needing regular medical appointments.
"Typically for the women coming in here, the average supervision is not working. They're usually at the end of the road as far as having things that are working to help straighten out their life. We kind of are the last stop before going through revocation and sending people to prison," Nieland said.
Kimsey said the center offers a variety of structured programming Monday through Friday. Programming is led by staff members and a variety of "community partners" from Callaway County and beyond. For example, there's one called "building strong families" where community partners help residents work on healthy relationships.
"One of the biggest parts of our trauma-informed care is simply just being kind," Kimsey said.
Some of the residents shared their stories with open house attendees Wednesday.
Judy Simons, of Fulton, opened up about how being sexually abused as a child led to years of drug abuse, prison time, losing custody of her children and winding up homeless.
"I know there's not many programs out there like this, but there needs to be. I know that if I hadn't come here, I would have went to prison, and once I got out of prison I would have went right back to using. In this program I don't even crave anything. I'm secure with myself and can cope in more healthy ways," Simons said.
CSC resident Kellsie Reynolds shared how her childhood trauma led her to rebel against family members who offered help. She became pregnant at age 17 and began abusing painkillers and methamphetamine.
"(My parole officer) mentioned this place and had heard nothing but good things about it," Reynolds said. "This is a really different kind of program. It digs deep and can be intense, but it's what we need as addicts."
Probation and parole officer Shari Lockett-Hamilton said residents earn passes to spend time out of the facility as a part of the four-phase program. Residents must have special permission to leave the facility and if they leave without permission, they are considered an "absconder." They will be located and arrested.
"If they are on parole, they can return to the Department of Corrections. If they're on probation, they'll probably end up in jail in front of their sentencing judge," Lockett-Hamilton said.
Lockett-Hamilton said the first 30 days of the program are the most difficult part. That's when women who aren't yet ready to confront their issues are likely to drop out. Past that, they're usually committed for the remaining 90.
Sharyl Matts went through the program earlier this year but relapsed. She said her parole officer was able to get her back into the CSC that day, rather than waiting 30 days for an opening at another treatment center.
"I think I'm ready this time. I'm chosen to be here. The staff doesn't look at me like, 'Shame on you,'" Matts said. "They're like, 'Welcome back, we can do it this time.' I've got a great support team."
"There are girls out there — I know because I've done time with them — that think that there's nothing out there and that there's no help out there for them. We need to tell them there is," CSC resident Jamie Gillespie said. "They might not know why they use drugs, but at least this place helps you start to figure out why and gives you the tools to cope."