Hiland Mountain Correctional Center held its 10th annual Success Inside and Out conference on Saturday, October 24, 2015. The event allows inmates who are nearing their release date a chance to meet and talk to various professionals who advise them on transitioning to life on the outside.
Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe, a founder of the conference, believes it has had an impact on many of the 700 inmates who have participated over the years. Confronting addictions, she said, is one of the major focuses.
"Substance abuse is what brought a lot of these women into the institution, and what keeps them from succeeding when they get out," she said. "So if we can help them focus on making healthy choices, working their treatment programs and staying away from the people who are close to them who are still using, that is a huge success."
Inmates also had the chance to speak with community representatives, who discussed options for education, employment, probation and child custody issues. Others gave advice on personal finance. Ellen Arvold, owner of Second Run clothing store in Anchorage, organized a fashion show to demonstrate appropriate and inappropriate job interview attire. Amy Brun led high-energy Zumba workouts.
Anchorage District Court Judge Pamela Washington said the conference is a chance for the community to give support to people who need help finding jobs, housing and other services. As a judge, she said, she appreciates the chance to connect with people on a more personal level than she can in court.
"From the bench I can't," she said. "I'm sort of giving out rules and punishments and giving people consequences. But right in here I can make a difference by saying, hey, these are the things you have to have in place so you can be successful."