NM prison hosts first-of-its-kind job fair for female inmates

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GRANTS, N.M. – A special job fair happened Wednesday in New Mexico to make sure women who are behind bars are set up for opportunities after prison.

“Today we were blessed to have a job fair come to Western New Mexico Correctional Facility,” said Caresse Stanfill, a Western New Mexico Correctional Facility inmate.

More than 20 women at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility came out to a first-of-its-kind event Wednesday. 

This job fair was brought inside the prison for women who are at least six months from being released from jail, and the resources there gave women hope for what’s to come. 

“To be in a place like this and think there’s no hope, to have people come and show you like ‘Hey there’s a way out, you don’t have to live this way no more’, it’s great,” said Stanfill. 

The women who helped make this event happen say they only want the best for these inmates.  

“I want to show these women that there’s a next step,” said Jessica Vigil Richards, warden of Western New Mexico Correctional Facility. 

And wanting the best sometimes means knowing exactly what it’s like to walk in the same shoes as these women — something organizer Stacy Burleson knows too well.

“I was incarcerated back in 2010 to 2016 for drug-trafficking,” said Stacy Burleson, executive director of Women In Leadership. “If we can eliminate some of these barriers before their release, I think that will help a lot of people succeed.”

Women met with different businesses and organizations and even found ways to find secure housing after they’ve served their time.  

Stanffill’s been in and out of jail a few times but now with some help from people at this fair, and others, she’s finding her own passions when she gets out in November.  

“I want to start a nonprofit organization for women who have been sex-trafficked, so they’ve given me resources, and they’re just making it seem like it’s possible,” said Stanfill. 

After today’s event, organizers want to take this to the men’s prison in Grants in the next few months and overall continue this event across different prisons.