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Magdalene on the Inside: A chance to be someone new

by Heather Davis February 14, 2017

Sophia & Tiffany in the manufacturing space at Thistle Farms.

Magdalene on the Inside is a program of Thistle Farms that supports incarcerated women through informed care, encouragement towards healing, and a structured place to live after their release. Magdalene on the Inside began in December 2013 at Tennessee Women’s Prison under the leadership of Sheila McClain, a Thistle Farms graduate and survivor-leader. Tiffany, Sophia, and Lori became the first inmates and pioneers of the program, and all are currently employed at Thistle Farms. The program meets twice a week at the prison and meetings consist of licensed, trauma-informed care, as well as volunteer supported groups: life-skills development, coping & self-care, and cognitive skill development. 

Tiffany first heard of Magdalene on the Inside through her roommate, Sophia. At first, Tiffany was skeptical about the program and attending the required weekly meetings. However, after attending Magdalene on the Inside for the course of 17 months, Tiffany’s perspective shifted and she made the commitment to complete the two-year program even after release. When asking Tiffany what prepared her for that decision she says, “I knew I needed a longer program than most places offer and Magdalene’s is two-years. I could not go back to my hometown because that is where I always fell back into my addictive behavior. I needed and wanted a change.”

Currently, Magdalene on the Inside is supporting the healing and care of eight women at the Tennessee Prison for Women. When Tiffany reflects on her experience she says, “People go to prison and either get better or get worse. You can get out and do the same things that you were doing that got you in there in the first place. Or you can try something different. I decided it was time to try something different.” Magdalene on the Inside provides the opportunity, structure, and support for women who desire something different. Tiffany’s presence is composed and calm, she takes her time to reflect when asked to share advice for the next woman walking through our doors. She says, “you have to be willing and open to trying something new in order to be someone new.”

If you are interested in volunteering with Magdalene on the Inside, please contact shelia@thistlefarms.org.

Photo courtesy of Peggy Napier.

Heather Davis
Heather Davis



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