2010 Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Awards
Women's Storybook Project of Texas, "Susan Cranford" Award - Female Offender Program
What began at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville, Texas, with five volunteers in 2003, has grown significantly to 100 very dedicated volunteers serving on six female prison units - the Hilltop, Murray, and Mountain View units and the Woodman State Jail in Gatesville, Texas, and the Plane State Jail and the Henley Unit in Dayton, Texas. The Women's Storybook Project of Texas connects children with their incarcerated mother through reading. The mother reads a storybook as though she is reading to her children, and it is recorded. The recording, along with the book, are in turn sent to her children. One caretaker of an offender's children that received the recording sent a letter to the volunteers stating: "When the books and tapes arrived the girls didn't quite understand the concept. As the tape begins to play, and it was their mother's voice, there was such a mixture of laughter and tears. One of the twins wrapped her arms around her body as if she were embracing her mom, it brought tears to my eyes." This past year, the Women's Storybook Project of Texas mailed 3,208 books and tapes to children in Texas and around the country. Their goal is to reduce recidivism and prevent offender's children from becoming future offenders themselves. For their dedication and commitment to restoring families and reducing recidivism, the Women's Storybook Project of Texas has been chosen to receive the prestigious "Susan Cranford" Award for Female Offender Program.
This award is named as a tribute to Susan Cranford who passed away in March 2007 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Susan, a former Windham School District and TDCJ employee, served the agency for 28 years. Many of those years were spent as the Warden at the Gatesville Unit. Prior to her retirement, Susan also served as Assistant Director of the State Jail Division and the Director of Private Facilities Division. Susan Cranford's innovative thinking and relentless desire to improve criminal justice programs for females gained her a well-deserved national reputation as an expert on women's issues in the field of corrections, both from the staff and offender perspectives.