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Second Chance After Prison



A United Methodist church in Maine created a program that gives female inmates a second chance at life. Sara Welch shows us how women are offering to become "my sister's keeper."

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(Locator: Cape Elizabeth, Maine)

Officer Nicola Cox, Cumberland County Jail: "Some of them don't have anyone even visit them."

It's painful for Stacey Belanger to think about the time she spent in jail, behind bars.

Stacey Belanger: "I wanted to give up, basically."

Stacey is a convicted felon and former drug addict. Inside the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, Maine, she felt lost and alone.

Stacey Belanger: "I felt hopeless."

Then she met Karen Poore.

Karen Poore: "So do you need anything picked up today?"

Karen is Stacey's mentor. The two women connected through a grassroots ministry program called "My Sister's Keeper." It's run by the Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church outside Portland.

Stacey Belanger, My Sister's Keeper: "You talk to the director of the My Sister's Keeper program and she will go out and look for someone who is right for you that mentors through them."

Carefully paired, they've developed a close bond.

Karen Poore, My Sister's Keeper: "Stacey and I have a relationship that is very unique. I have learned so much from her and her world that no book or movie could ever show you."

Stacey looks up to Karen and trusts her.

Stacey Belanger: "I relapsed recently. I went and talked to them and was able to open up and ask for help again. And they didn't judge me at all."

Karen Poore: "It's been rewarding for me. I don't want this ever to end, this relationship."

Stacey Belanger: "Karen showed me, I had been in an abusive relationship, and she showed me no woman deserves that in life."

She's also helped Stacey find housing and furniture. The goal of the mentor program is to prevent women like Stacey from ending up back in jail. Karen isn't about to let that happen.

Karen Poore: "She said at a team meeting last week or week before last she said, 'How long will you be with me?' And I said, 'As long as I am breathing I will be with you.'"

Officer Nicola Cox: "I think this program is gonna grow because these women do really well at what they do, and I think you're gonna see a lot of success with them."

Karen Poore: "I'm very proud of you"

Stacey Belanger: "Thank you for all your help."

A year into the program, My Sister's Keeper has changed Stacey's life tremendously. Karen's friendship and positive influence give Stacey confidence and hope.

Stacey Belanger: "Now I say when I get better I want to be a mentor, because I know it's going to happen and my life will get better.It improves every day."


There are currently more than two dozen mentor matches helping former inmates transition into society.

For more information on the My Sister's Keeper program, you can call Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church at 207-799-8396 . Several other supporters in the community help Cape Elizabeth UMC keep My Sister's Keeper going.

Posted: June 24, 2011