Arizona Women’s Education & Employment (AWEE) has received a three-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a mentoring-based program designed to provide stability and reduce recidivism for up to 200 high-risk women being released from Perryville Prison.

Eligibility for the Women Living Free (WLF) program will begin with a screening process at least six months before scheduled release dates.  Participants will begin pre-release classes 90 days prior to release with bi-monthly cohort-style meetings with mentors in groups of ten. The WLF program is scheduled to start at Perryville this month.

“Women Living Free is a comprehensive program to help create stability for moderate-to-high risk women and their families through gender specific, wrap-around services with trained mentors at the core,” said AWEE President and CEO Marie Sullivan.  “Our intent is to help these women overcome barriers and transition successfully back into the community by filling gaps for successful re-entry with mentoring, family reunification, civil legal assistance, employment and pro-social activities.”

Mentors are being sought for training in three specific areas:

peer mentors who have shared similar life experiences or who are certified Peer Support Specialists;

faith-based mentors with similar religious affiliations as women selected for the program; and

business or professional mentors working in a field of interest to participating mentees.

Re-entry plans for each mentee will be developed based on risk-assessment scores determined during their second month in the program.  During the second month of pre-release classes, mentees will review pre-recorded videos to select their mentors and begin letter writing or phone contact.

After their release, mentees will begin full participation in AWEE employment track programs, choosing among Rapid Employment, Vocational Training or Entrepreneurship while continuing to work with their mentors to meet re-entry or employment goals.

In addition, mentees will have access to a range of support services through WLF community partners, which include the Arizona Department of Correction Community Corrections, Maricopa County Adult Probation Department, ViVRE Recovery Housing, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Family Involvement Center and Arizona Central Credit Union.

Independent evaluation of the program will be conducted on an ongoing basis by a team from Arizona State University to provide feedback and outcomes.

For more information about the Women Living Free Program, call Program Director Toni Davis at (602) 223-4333 or email For more information about AWEE, visit or call (602) 223-4333.