'Mentoring Moms' help pregnant inmates

A local program called Mentoring Moms is giving special diets, advice and resources to mothers behind bars.

HOUSTON - A local program called Mentoring Moms is giving advice and resources to pregnant mothers behind bars. 

Back in 2013, Jennifer Herring had an idea. The life-long social worker was hired by the Harris County Sheriff's Office to spearhead new reentry programs.

The programs were designed to help county inmates become productive members of society once they were released from jail.

But Herring chose, instead, to focus on mentoring inmates while they were in jail, more specifically, she chose to mentor pregnant inmates and mothers.

"No one predicted it," said Herring at a table inside cell block 4K2. "No one predicted it. But we saw it. We saw the need. We saw the hunger in the women's eyes. We saw the opportunity for hope."

Mentoring Moms is a program that helps women create career and financial plans once they are released from jail.

Mentors help the women work through trauma that stems from bad relationships and/or sexual abuse. Counselors help the women recover from drug abuse and then identify tactics that will help the women from using again.  

"Everybody has a place in their life where they're broken," said Herring. "God forbid you're pregnant. God forbid you're locked up."

Herring is tracking the results of the nearly three-year old program and it currently has a six-percent recidivism rate. 

"We should care because these are our neighbors. These are our sisters. These are our mothers. These are our daughters. This could happen to anyone," Herring said of the program that is the first-of-its-kind in the United States. 

"This mistake to me was a lesson and a blessing," said Kelly Cobb from the cell inside 4K2. The 21-year-old Wisconsin native is set to walk out of jail by the end of the week. 

Cobb confirmed she is guilty of theft. "Ever. My first time ever!," in jail said Cobb.  And, she said, it will be her "last time."

Cobb is eight-months pregnant with a little girl who will be her first child. She said she was pregnant when she was arrested and put in the Harris County Jail six months ago.

The social workers paired with Mentoring Moms have, on average, 90 days to work through the program in its entirety. 

Herring explained about 100 pregnant women are behind bars at the Harris County facility at 1200 Baker on any given day.  

Mentoring Moms and cell block 4K2 only have space for about two dozen women. So, there's a wait list.

Social workers on average have 90 days to work through the program and a wait list. 

The women in 4K2 said they appreciate and understand the opportunity. " I just want to be the best Kelly that I can be." said Cobb. 


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