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Liberty & Justice for Some

This month our BSW interns worked together to write this outstanding piece!

“In my addiction I had no freedom. I was a slave. It made choices for me. Now with the help of the Magdalene House I have my freedom back.”

The month of July is an opportunity to reflect on our nation and the freedoms we have. One of our main goals at MSH is to help our residents move toward independence and successfully reintegrate into the community. This is not always an easy task, especially when formerly incarcerated persons often face discrimination and remain disenfranchised from the political system due to past felony convictions. This problem has grown so large, that it impacts 1 in 44 adults in the U.S. today, totaling 5.2 million Americans who have lost the right to vote. Preventing those with felony convictions from voting contributes to the racial divide polarizing our country. More than two million African-Americans (almost 8 percent of Black adults) are prevented from voting because of felony convictions, compared to just under 2 percent of non-African-American citizens. While many people with felony convictions lose the right to vote, they are still impacted by decisions made in the political process. Thus, restoration of voting rights is critical for people involved in the criminal justice system.

Voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals vary from state to state. Some state policies allow everyone to vote. At the same time there are states in which all people with felony convictions are permanently disenfranchised. Arkansas law offers those with felony convictions the opportunity to have their voting rights restored under certain conditions. The individual must provide proof to the county clerk that he or she has been discharged from probation or parole, has paid all probation or parole fees, satisfied all terms of imprisonment, and paid all applicable court costs, fines, or restitution (Ark. Code Ann. Amend. 51 §11(d)(2)(A-D)). While freedom means something different to everybody, the restoration of voting rights is critical to our freedom as American citizens.

At Magdalene Serenity House, we recognize the lack of freedom granted to formerly incarcerated persons and how this impacts their successful reintegration into the community. Exercising full autonomy over one’s life and in their community is critical in the recovery and healing process. Therefore, we are always looking for opportunities to help our residents build their self-confidence and take control of their lives. One of the most significant ways we demonstrate trust and foster independence is by not having a 24-hour staff on site. This unsupervised time gives the residents opportunities to build relationships, work through disagreements, have fun, and truly feel at HOME at Magdalene Serenity House. We believe that a foundation of trust and freedom is crucial as our residents heal and recover. Using support from the program, legal advocacy, and responsible use of freedom as a self-managed community, Magdalene residents work diligently to retain their liberties. As we ponder freedom at Magdalene Serenity House, we encourage you to do the same and to remember those who do not have all their freedom, whether it is due to addiction, to felony convictions, or to political disenfranchisement.

“Being here at Magdalene House has given me a whole different perspective of freedom because it shows me how to be free from myself. Being in prison, I walked away not knowing who I am or who I want to be, and that’s a really big thing. If it wasn’t for this program and the people who are here that actually care, I would have gotten out and I would’ve probably been a prisoner of myself because I was so lost, not knowing what to do or where I’m going to go… This place here really gives me a big piece of freedom.” – MSH Resident

“Magdalene House really helps me in my freedom by giving me the resources and tools I need to do something better. By giving me advice, giving me opportunities, helping me stay in a safe supportive environment – that does support my wanting to be sober.” – MSH Resident

Authors: Alex Gershon & Joanna Dixon, BSW Interns, University of Arkansas

Resident Spotlight

My name is Sarah and I am a Phase Two Resident at Magdalene Serenity House. Before coming to MSH I had made some bad decisions and found myself at the county jail and then prison. I decided then and there that I was not doing time for no reason. I was going to learn something and I was going to do better. I decided to come to MSH for my future and for my recovery. I also wanted to have a great life with my daughter and my family. Since being at MSH I now know that I am worth it and I know I can have goals and achieve them. I know that I have a bright future ahead of me. My future plans include continuing my recovery and helping my daughter get into college. I want to live a happy and healthy life. My advice for others in recovery is to take it one day at a time. Things will get tough, just know you are tough and this too shall pass. Hang in there and anything you fight for is worth it. I want folks to know that I am a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and a fighter. I want to end by sharing my favorite quote. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” – May Angelou

– Sarah, Phase Two Resident

Program Achievements

  • Our residents and staff remain safe and healthy. We are grateful to be able to continue serving women who have experienced trauma, addiction, and incarceration.
  • One of our residents graduated from the Transitional Employment Opportunities (TEO) program at Goodwill. TEO participants gain marketable skills and develop positive work behaviors to help prepare for competitive employment.
  • One resident completed Phase One and obtained employment in the community.
  • One resident began overnight visits every other weekend at MSH with her daughter.
  • One resident celebrated one year sober! Congratulations!

Welcome Joy Morris!

Join us in welcoming Joy Morris to the Magdalene Serenity House Team

We are pleased to announce Joy Morris is joining our team on August 16th as Development Director. Joy has been involved with Magdalene Serenity House for the past 2 ½ years through the Association of Fundraising Professionals Mentorship Program, helping establish fundraising policies and best practices.

Joy was raised in Springdale, AR and received her Bachelors in Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She has experienced rewarding work as a professional non-profit fundraiser since 2004 at organizations such as Northwest AR Children’s Shelter, CASA of NWA, The New School and most recently at Single Parent Scholarship Fund of NWA. Joy was announced in the 2021 class of Certified Fund Raising Executives by CFRE International.

Joy lives in Fayetteville with her husband, Sean and daughter, Kenlee. She most enjoys watching her daughter play soccer and family time at the lake.

We cannot wait to welcome Joy to our team in August!

Get Involved

We are looking forward to welcoming volunteers back to Magdalene Serenity House. This month we had a team of volunteers help us with our First Annual MSH Work Day. It was great to safely welcome folks back to our community. Want to learn more about volunteering? Email Hope to see you soon!

Tour our Program!

We are now offering tours to folks who want to learn more about our program. Last month we welcomed an incredible team from Oklahoma City who are in the process of starting a Magdalene Program. Interested in touring and learning more about our program? Email We would love to meet you!

Thank You for Believing in Us!

  • We were surprised by an incredibly generous grant award from the Fayetteville Junior Civic League for our Recovery Support Program. Thank you for making a significant impact on the lives of the women we serve!
  • A BIG thank you to all of the folks who have purchased items off our wish lists. Every purchase makes a significant difference and helps us continue to serve women who have experienced trauma, addiction, and incarceration

Thank you all for being a part of our healing community!