Albuquerque, N.M. (KKOB) —
For the last 27 years, Ann Edenfieldsweet has devoted her life to helping families of incarcerated people – and those behind bars themselves – live a better life. “Our mission is transforming lives to break that generational cycle of incarceration,” she said. Edenfieldsweet founded the nonprofit Wings for Life International after her own struggles as a single mom when her first husband, an airline pilot, was arrested. “No one teaches you what to do in that situation, so that’s what we try to do, to help families break the generational cycle of incarceration.” Wings for Life statistics show that kids of prisoners have a 72% chance of ending up in prison themselves. Edenfieldsweet says that’s why, among dozens of other offerings, the charity hosts free in-person programming to fill in the gaps for kids and their parents when mom or dad is behind bars. Lessons range from dealing with money to how to act respectfully in a courtroom, and even basic table manners. Mentors also help with homework and lend an ear when participants just need someone to listen. “This year,” said Edenfieldsweet, “we’ve been really blessed because the legislature gave us money to establish eight new programs around the state.” The new programs are being funded by $360,000 dollars in Junior Funds, some of which came from State Representative, Karen Bash who tells us she believes the best way to address the crime crisis is to prevent it in the first place. The programs will also work with local juvenile corrections departments on a compromise for kids who have already been arrested. If they attend the program for a series of sessions, their record can be cleared depending on the crime.
By giving kids the skills they need to be successful not only in school, but also socially, and at home, Wings for Life is helping to break the cycle of crime in Albuquerque, and soon in Farmington, Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, the East Mountains, Valencia County, Roswell, and Las Cruces. The cost to jump-start all eight new programs is estimated to be less than it takes to keep one child behind bars for a year.
“Think about the savings that can be made by keeping one child per program out of corrections,” said Edenfieldsweet. “Not just for the department, but savings because these kids didn’t get into trouble, they didn’t commit a crime. All because we gave just a little extra education.”
Wings for Life is searching for people to help run those programs now, with hopes of them being fully operational by next year.