by Will Dupree
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that two-thirds of released prisoners will end up back behind bars within three years of their release.
Because of that alarming rate of recidivism, a Claremore nonprofit organization is trying to help formerly incarcerated women straighten out their lives and start fresh.
Outside the She Brews Coffee House, located at 414 W. Will Rogers Boulevard, the window reads, “This isn’t any ordinary coffee house.” What makes this place so unusual is the employees who whip up the coffee, serve the food, clean the tables and ring up the tickets.
“When you come in here, you come in for an experience and not so much just the coffee,” says Rhonda Bear.
Bear founded She Brews two years ago after first opening housing for women recently released from jail or prison. She says they often had a tough time finding jobs, so she decided to create some for them.
“I kind of thought coffee might be an expensive way to begin,” she says. “I had $300 and faith.”
The risk paid off because Bear says the coffee shop has so far helped 15 women move onto new jobs, and now four more women are hoping to do the same thing.
“If you give them a platform where they can feel secure, they can move forward,” said She Brews board member Linda Biles. “Then you watch them begin to make that forward move, and it’s exciting.”
Bear says a steady job helps these women get their lives back on track and stay out of prison.
“In order to stay out of prison,” she says, “you have to have safe housing. You have to have a job. You have to have community support.”
Seeing the women succeed motivates Bear, who previously served time as well, to keep She Brews open for many years to come.
“I’m an uneducated drug addict who somebody invested in me and gave me hope and helped change my life and my children, and now I pay it forward,” Bear says.
The nonprofit running She Brews is now trying to raise enough money to install a commercial kitchen in the space so that the food can be prepared on site instead of at a church nearby.
The coffee shop is open Monday through Saturday and can now deliver lunch orders.
To find out more information, visit the She Brews Coffee House website here .