How Bianca broke with drug addiction and a cycle of imprisonment

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The center takes care of around 800 people released each year as part of reintegration programs. The availability of programs is severely limited due to lack of funding.

One woman who says her experience speaks to the importance of non-judgmental education programs said she was stuck in a crime cycle after becoming “completely and utterly addicted to drugs.”

Defenders are asking for more support to help detainees reintegrate into society. Credit:Pierre Rae

Bianca Amoranto, 42, served four separate prison terms in her 30s and initially had no access to assistance.

“I would be sucked into the criminal justice system, spat out, churned and flipped straight back,” said Amoranto, who suffered childhood trauma and domestic violence.

“I remember walking down the street and I really felt like I had this sticker on my forehead that said ‘drug’, ‘criminal’, ‘unworthy’. I felt like I was being watched and judged all the time.

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She entered a program on her penultimate sentence, receiving help from a support worker to access essential services. An untimely funding cut ended care a month after her release and she again escalated, returning to detention.

The experience, however, opened Ms. Amoranto’s eyes to opportunities for support and she began to recover during her last period of detention. She has since restored healthy relationships with her two daughters, graduated in youth work, enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in psychological science at the university, and worked as a support worker at the center.

Ms Amoranto said it was “heartbreaking” to push people away from the programs because of the limited capacity.

“Because you have people who want support and you know you can’t give it to them. What ends up with this person? ” she said.

The center seeks to help clients avoid factors that can lead to delinquency, including homelessness, substance abuse, mental and physical health issues, lack of education and employment opportunities, break-up. family and social isolation.

The programs involve hands-on assistance in connecting clients with government services, health professionals, legal advice, organizing finances and accessing housing.

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