As we celebrate Mother’s Day in May and recognize the importance of moms, a panel sheds light on the over 1.8 million women released from jail and over 80,000 women released from prison each year and the significant barriers they face to successfully transition from life inside a correctional facility back to their community.

, the leading technology company empowering rehabilitative justice by pioneering the development and deployment of educational platforms as a rehabilitation tool for incarcerated individuals, hosted their first in a series of policy discussions on barriers to reentry. In the lead up to Mother’s Day this weekend, the roundtable highlighted the experiences and challenges of women both during and after incarceration.

Barriers to Workforce Reentry – Spotlight on Formerly Incarcerated Women, was moderated by Aventiv Chief Human Resources Officer Cindy Pechal and featured conversation between Aventiv Advisory Board Chair Teresa Hodge, formerly incarcerated co-founder of Mission: Launch, Inc. recently recognized by Forbes as one of the most influential women over 50; Aventiv Advisory Board Member Jane Oates, former U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) official and President of WorkingNation; and Michelle Cirocco, the formerly incarcerated Chief Social Responsibility Officer for Televerde.

Over the course of the hour-long event the women discussed the many unique struggles faced by formerly incarcerated women, from the challenges of motherhood while incarcerated and returning to roles as primary caregivers, to a lack of access to education, jobs, and housing that can hamper successful reentry. The issues were discussed from social, policy, and personal perspectives, with both Aventiv Advisory Board President Teresa Hodge and Televerde’s Michelle Cirocco sharing their own experiences during and after incarceration to highlight the barriers they experienced firsthand, and the work they have done in years since to help other incarcerated women gain access to successful reentry.

Below are excerpts from the discussion, which you can watch here in full:

“There are federal policies that can and should change,” said Aventiv Advisory Board member Jane Oates.  “It’s not just getting a woman coming out of incarceration a job. It’s about helping her define a career pathway, because that first job, maybe you’re a really bad fit. You’re forced to take it because you want to get your kids back, or even if they’re not in the system, they’re staying with a relative and you want them back with you…Who’s going to work with you?” She continued “the public workforce is not helping them do that. Colleges, community colleges, certainly aren’t helping them do that right now. We need to figure out who could be a mechanism for the government to fund that could really do that.”

“I raised two boys from behind bars,” said Televerde’s Michelle Cirocco. “My children were three and six when I was arrested. And I was lucky enough that I was able to parent from behind bars, because their father had made a commitment to them that he would make sure we were able to maintain that relationshipWhen we don’t allow the women to have access to the children, it further compounds that guilt and that shame…So you come home and now you’re trying to care for them, and you’re carrying all this guilt of how much time that you’ve missed. And it never goes away. It literally never goes away.”

“No one understands the pressure that we place on individuals when they come home from prison. After they have served their time, the sentence is over;  a part of the punishment should begin to lift,” said Aventiv Advisory Board President Teresa Hodge. “How can we shoulder some of the burden so that we make it easier for people to come back home, get back on their feet? Because our society works better when all of us work, when all of us have a fair shot at opportunity.”

“I think what’s also unique for us as women and appreciating the things that as parents, as a mom, we suffer different types of guilt for being working parents,” said Aventiv Chief Human Resources Officer Cindy Pechal. “Imagine how that’s compounded by the guilt of ever getting over a situation, and how you address that has to be just so heavy on incarcerated women.”

ݮƵIOS will continue to create space for important conversations, in addition to its work to address barriers to reentry by increasing educational resources and communications access in correctional facilities, providing critical job opportunities and training through our subsidiary Securus’ partnership with Televerde, and facilitating creative opportunities for incarcerated women like Ms. Carmela Mose, the winner of Aventiv and Lecrae’s  “Original Hip-Hop Track Contest.”

This initiative  is part of ݮƵIOS’ multi-year commitment to , including addressing education, reentry, and recidivism, as well as listening and responsiveness. This was the first in a series of discussions on barriers to reentry. Future discussions, and videos from the inaugural roundtable, will be shared at aventiv.com.