In May, female inmates at the Harris County Jail spent four hours a day, five days a week learning how to use programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the basics of web design.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia partnered with The Mexican Institute of Greater Houston to offer inmates a five-week computer literacy course as part of a larger program called Mentoring Moms. Mentoring Moms, which started in November, is the first program at Harris County Jail that deals exclusively with women and parenting.
"The program hopes to make these moms productive members of society," said Christina Garza of the Harris County Sheriff's Office, "and keep them away from the life of crime that got them into the jail in the first place."
The jail has been offering an inmate education program for over 30 years to the wider inmate population, giving them vocational training in areas like culinary arts, mechanics, and carpentry. Mentoring Moms was brought to the jail in an effort to extend its services beyond the basic medical care mandated by Texas state law specifically for inmates who are pregnant or have small children.
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According to the sheriff's office press release, "up to 1,100 women are housed in the Harris County Jail" at any given time. The 60 to 90 day program draws from the resources of non-profit organizations and educational institutions to provide inmates with an opportunity to enroll is courses dealing with anything from parenting to computer literacy.
The program, as one can probably gather from its name, is a heavily gendered one. No men are enrolled, and no men in the Harris County Jail will take parenting classes or learn how to become better fathers, according to the sheriff's office spokesperson. Because it seems only moms should know how to take care of, and provide for, a family.
By leaving male inmates out of the conversation, it's doing a disservice to families that have to deal with jailed parents. It also keeps moms, who are taught all about raising children and getting jobs, from reentering society with full force. Whether Mentoring Moms will actually keep female inmates out of jail and in the workforce remains to be seen.