Albuquerque program helps women transition after incarceration

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Estelle Ray found herself in jail and prison at points in her life. When she wasn’t behind bars anymore, she found a program to help her transition back into society.

A Peaceful Habitation is a local organization that helps provide women with what they need after incarceration – like structure and a place to live.

“Clothing, food boxes, well, actually living there, you know, they help you get food stamps, Medicaid,” Ray said. “If you don’t have an ID, you’re gonna have one.”

The founder of the 18-year-old organization, Leticia Chavez-Paulette, can easily relate to the women’s experiences in this program.

“I ended up doing some things, becoming addicted and ended up incarcerated,” Chavez-Paulette said. “You see these women coming back, and you’re wondering what is needed, what are they not getting.”

That is what inspired her to start this organization – making an impact on people like Ray, who has used the program twice.

After finishing the program, Ray finally reconnected with her family.

She lost custody of her daughter when she spent time in jail in 2011. Her daughter was just a middle school student at the time. Another family adopted her.

“Hope, you know, I feel like we beat ourselves down too much where we can’t move forward,” Chavez-Paulette said.

Nine years after graduating from the women’s transitional program, Ray says her life is back on track.

“Everything’s not perfect, but I’m alive, I’m sober, I’m in a church,” Ray said. “I got my family.”