HistoryLast modified: August 20, 2011
Martha Jane Dowds, wife of a Superior Court Judge, founded Friends Outside in Los Angeles in 1972 in her San Marino home, at the recommendation of Federal Judge William P. Gray. Early services to families included advocacy to and information about the criminal justice system, resource referrals, “practical advice”, and a Wives’ Club. Remembering Mrs. Goodenough’s advice to “always let the women do something for themselves”, Wives’ Club members were responsible for bringing food for every other meeting. The women arrived with their children, who were always dressed in their finest clothes. Mrs. Dowds realized that the club was their only social activity. The Chapter’s Headquarters moved to Pasadena in 1975, where they remain today.
In the mid-seventies, the chapter was supported by monthly, individual donations in the amount of $18.00. In 1978, Mrs. Dowds established an all-volunteer Jail Visitation Program, with assistance from Joyce Ride (mother of Astronaut Sally). The chapter received its first government contract in 1985 from County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. The annual operating budget at the time was approximately $75,000. In 1990, Friends Outside received grants from the California Community Foundation and County Supervisor Deane Dana to open satellite offices in Long Beach and Watts. Our chapter serves approximately 2,000 different persons annually with an annual operating budget of approximately $700,000.
In 1990, we received a commendation from James Rowland, Director of the California Department of Corrections, for providing “outstanding services to parolees.” Subsequent awards have included the “Woman Pioneer” award to Mrs. Ride from the Los Angeles City Council, who was also named one of 10 “Women of the Year” by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women for her work with female inmates. In 1996, Friends Outside volunteers received the “Spirit of Giving” award from the City of Pasadena. In 1997, Mrs. Dowds was a Finalist for the Golden Rule Award from the JCPenney Corporation. In 2004, a client in our “Parole to Payroll” program was a recipient of the Star Award from the Los Angeles County Community Action Board. And in 2007, Mrs. Dowds was awarded the “Public Citizen of the Year” award by the National Association of Social Workers, California, Region 1.
Founders of Friends Outside in Los Angeles County
Federal Judge William P. Gray became interested in Friends Outside because of his daughter’s (Robin Frazier) involvement with Friends Outside in Contra Costa County. Rosemary Goodenough, Founder of Friends Outside, suggested that Judge Gray persuade someone to host a luncheon for women in the Los Angeles area who were interested in the work of the organization. Martha Jane Dowds agreed to host the meeting. When Mrs. Goodenough discovered that Mrs. Dowds was the wife of a Superior Court Judge, she told Mrs. Dowds that she was a “powerful woman” and urged her to start a chapter. Mrs. Dowds did so, with assistance from Mary Meyer, Lorraine Wilson, and Babs Jenkins from the San Marino Community Church, who all attended the meeting.
“The mission of Friends Outside is to assist children and families, prisoners, and former prisoners with the immediate and long-term effects of incarceration, and to act as a bridge between those we serve, the community at large, and the criminal justice system , thereby enhancing the character of justice.”
Friends Outside’s philosophy includes the following core beliefs:
• That incarceration can be as devastating to the family, especially to the children, as it can be to the incarcerated;
• That the needs of whole families should be addressed whenever possible, and that efforts to maintain family bonds should be supported when mutually desired;
• That incarceration can be an intergenerational pattern which can be broken through appropriate services;
• That criminal offenders are more likely to become productive members of society if they are able to maintain family ties, and receive appropriate services; and
• That society as a whole benefits by our services through increased public safety, cost-savings, and better outcomes for the children and families we serve.
Goals and Objectives
1) Provide and improve links between families and their
incarcerated loved ones, when mutually desired.
• Improve interpersonal relationships between families and their incarcerated loved ones.
• Increase contacts between failies and their incarcerated loved ones.
• Improve the quality of communication between families and their incarcerated loved ones.
• Increase the rate of reunification between families and their incarcerated loved ones.
2) Provide and link children and families, prisoners, and former
prisoners with resources for support.
• Increase the quantity of materials resources available to children and families, prisoners, and former prisoners. Increase the awareness of resources among children and families, prisoners, and former prisoners.
• Improve the ability of children and families, prisoners, and former prisoners to advocate for themselves. Establish and relationships maintain working with other community resources. Improve data bank of available resources for children and families, prisoners, and former prisoners.
3) Reduce or prevent multi-generation crime.
• Ameliorate the unintended effects of familial crime and incarceration.
• Improve parent/child relationships among families of prisoners.
• Improve the ability of families of prisoners to provide emotional and material support to their children.
4) Support responsible and humane treatment of children and
families of prisoners and their incarcerated loved ones.
• Increase public awareness of the unintended consequences of incarceration.
• Increase the availability of and access to alternatives to incarceration.
• Increase the availability of human services to children and families of prisoners and their incarcerated loved ones. (Back to top)
Friends Outside is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was founded in 1955 in Santa Clara County by Rosemary Goodenough to address the special needs of families affected by incarceration. Mrs. Goodenough spent the remainder of her life developing “chapters” to serve local communities and working with the California Department of Corrections to create programs inside California’s state prisons.
There are eight separately incorporated chapters of Friends Outside in the State of California which are united by their mission and their name. Each chapter’s services have been created in response to the need of the county in which they are located. Chapters provide services to children and families with incarcerated family members, county jail inmates, and released prisoners.
Friends Outside Chapters are located in the following counties:
• Contra Costa
• Los Angeles
• San Bernardino
• Santa Clara
• Santa Cruz
Located in Stockton, California, the Friends Outside Organization administers programs in California State Prisons and in counties in which there is no Friends Outside chapter. The Prison Representative Program employs full-time staff to provide services to state prisoners. The Visitors’ Center Program employs staff to manage facilities on the grounds of each California state prison from which visitors are assisted with needs such as clothing, childcare, and emotional support. For more information, please contact Friends Outside at (209) 938-0727, or visit their website, www.friendsoutside.org.