Beyond Bars is a Girl Scout troop for girls whose mothers are incarcerated. The program provides support and encouragement to girls who are often overlooked, explains Baltimore City Circuit Administrative Judge Marcella A. Holland. Traci Barnett, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, explains that in addition to serving as a means for girls to maintain a positive and meaningful relationship with their mothers, the program helps to reduce the trauma that girls may experience from having an incarcerated parent, unites girls who are dealing with this difficult issue in a non-judgmental, safe and caring forum, and builds girls’ self-esteem while encouraging them to achieve their hopes and dreams.
The Baltimore City Circuit Court has been involved since the first Beyond Bars program in the nation launched in Baltimore in 1992. In fact, retired Baltimore City Circuit Judges Carol E. Smith, Ellen M. Heller and Kathleen O'Ferrall Friedman were active advocates for the program during its founding. The program is a partnership of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, the Maryland Department of Corrections, and the National Institute of Justice. Since 1992, Beyond Bars troops have flourished in Baltimore and the program has expanded to several other states.
Beyond Bars has been featured on national and syndicated programs, and has been recognized by the National Institute of Justice, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Maryland Criminal Justice Association.
This fall, Baltimore’s Courthouse East has been hosting an exhibit of art banners created by members of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars troops 7140 and 7856. The collection, “Our Hopes and Our Dreams for the Future,” depicts the girls’ future goals and the possibility of change.