Maud Ballington Booth’s Legacy
In 1896, Volunteers of America co-founder Maud Ballington Booth opened the first privately owned halfway house in the United States. Hope Hall was located in New York City and was designed to help recently released convicts reintegrate into their community. The program was so successful that she opened another Hope Hall in Chicago, and by 1902 over 3,000 recently-released individuals had passed through the Halls.
Today, Maud’s commitment to assisting incarcerated individuals with the transition back into society remains a top priority at Volunteers of America. Here in Wyoming, we operate Booth Hall, which continues the work of Hope Hall in helping individuals convicted of crime re-enter their communities.
One such individual is Robert, a resident of Booth Hall. Before coming to our program, Robert recalls “I was a number. I was nobody.” Since his first day at Volunteers of America, he has slowly relearned what it’s like to be more than just an inmate.
Robert says that Booth Hall staff treat him with respect and empathy. They greet him by his first name and check in on how he’s doing. He explains, “It’s helped me feel human like I’m important. Like I exist. And I didn’t for a year and a half. I’m really thankful that I got the chance to come here because I can’t imagine going from being just a number straight to the streets.”
This sense of humanity is crucial as individuals transfer from prison to society. In fact, for Robert, it’s the most important piece of his re-entry experience. He explains, “I’ve found a job, I was able to buy a car, I have health insurance. I’m going to have a solid bedrock when I’m released. But I don’t think any of that is more important than the way I’ve been treated here.”
The belief that our residents should be treated with respect can be traced to the very beginning of our program. Maud Ballington Booth wrote in her book After Prison – What?: “Amid these whom many would give up as beyond reach and unworthy of effort, I have found generosity, unselfishness, sympathy, patience and cheerfulness that would often teach people in happier circumstances a striking lesson.” Maud’s commitment to treating everyone like a human being, regardless of their past, has not wavered in over a century as we continue to provide the re-entry services she dedicated her life to.
Robert has experienced this commitment firsthand. He says, “If for some reason I don’t get paroled, I’ll be here longer, and I would be okay with that too. This place has been good to me, and I’ll only be better prepared to leave if I don’t get out on parole. I know that when I do leave, I will go home and be the best dad to my kids that I can be.”