Grantee profile: Formerly incarcerated women lead the way at Why Not Prosper

Members of Why Not Prosper in front of a banner.

Why Not Prosper

On October 1, Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative grantee Why Not Prosper launched a new pilot program called Breaking the Cycle. The program provides housing and job training to women released from the Philadelphia prison system who have been trafficked for sex. This program will track and study these women for three years, addressing mental health issues and building skills needed to earn sustainable wages.

This new program is just one piece in Why Not Prosper’s comprehensive approach to building power for formerly incarcerated women. “We want to empower women to advocate for themselves and work for themselves after incarceration,” said Why Not Prosper director Reverend Michelle Simmons.

Rev. Simmons, herself formerly incarcerated, founded Why Not Prosper in 2000 to serve the unmet needs of women both in the prison system and upon reentry. “Why Not Prosper transforms the criminal legal system in a fundamental way,” she said, “by reducing the recidivism rate, advocating for the rights of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, and by empowering those women.”

Why Not Prosper is currently building their organization to increase their ability to make change. They launched an annual appeal drive to grow their donor base, recently got their building licensed as a transitional living facility, and obtained a 15-passenger van to transport women to work, appointments, and school.

“The most meaningful part of our work is empowering these women, helping to change their mindsets, and helping them become positive contributors to society,” Rev. Simmons said.