Probation officers Olga Lattarulo, Carolyn Shannon, Debra Cerundolo and Christine Thomas were tired of seeing the same women come before the Chelsea District Court in a pattern that just never seemed to end.
The same Latina women – as well as English-speaking women – seemed to be involved in a circle of crime that seemed impossible to break.
But instead of giving up and moving on, the four probation officers at Chelsea District Court decided to devise a plan. This past week, 13 women proved that the plan worked, with the first graduating class of the first-ever Spanish-geared Womanhood Program, called ‘Programa de la Mujer.’
The Womanhood Program existed prior in several different courthouses, but it never had a component geared towards the Spanish-speaking community. Now, the program is open to all people and has simultaneous instruction in both English and Spanish.
“It’s enough punishment for them to be on probation and to pay the fines, but we need to have them learn something if we don’t want them to keep coming back,” Lattarulo told the Record. “We don’t want them back on probation. We don’t want to see this recidivism. The way to stop that is to educate the community. That’s the key and education will likely be the thing to break the circle for these women.”
Classes were held for 11-weeks, and through a partnership with ROCA, the space at ROCA’s center was used for those classes.
During the class, the topics ranged from a doctor talking about specific issues on women’s health – such as AIDS, safe sex and prostitution – to topics like avoiding the urge to be a shopaholic.
“That’s one of the classes we taught them,” said Lattarulo. “We talked about how to stretch a dollar and how to buy in volume to save money. We also talked about being a shopaholic. A lot of times, women will find themselves in trouble because they buy things when they’re sad that they don’t need and cannot afford.”
Other topics included nutrition, custody issues, anger management and substance abuse.
For finishing the program, each of the 13 women got three months of probation removed and $190 in fines removed.
The program was approved and endorsed by Chelsea Chief Justice Diana Maldonaldo – who attended this week’s graduation ceremony at the ROCA building.
Lattarulo said that they are considering this first version of Programa de la Mujer a success.
“We had 14 people registered for the class and 13 graduated,” she said. “That is a success for us. This was a new program developed by us at Chelsea District Court probation. What we’re trying to do is stop this repeated criminal behavior. Hopefully, we have helped these 13 women move towards that.”
Some of the women who graduated the program and were on hand at Monday’s graduation were Marisol Aparicio, Nicole Busheme, Karolee Mokal, Valerie Davis, Jennifer Gonzalez, Carmen Gonzalez, and Collins Monet.