Chaly Downs


“I realized through all of this that for families, incarceration is just as bad for the children as it is for the parent.”

Louisville, Kentucky - January, 2021

My name is Chaly Downs. I came to Volunteers of America’s Mid-States’ Freedom House for pregnant and parenting moms. I had been incarcerated and was using drugs. I worried about my kids and knew that I needed to work diligently to start a path to a new life for myself and my children. I understand that Kentucky is the second state in the U.S. for having the most number of incarcerated women. I had heard that Freedom House had a comprehensive recovery program and would allow me to be reunited with my children.

While so many organizations want to take children away from mothers working to overcome addiction, Freedom House has a completely different approach. Their program is set up to help mothers overcome their addiction while also caring for their children. This program gave me hope and allowed me to see that I could live and care for my children without the use of drugs.

By working diligently with the Volunteers of America Freedom House recovery program, I was able to reunite with my children, get a job and celebrate my recovery. I have also become a spokesperson for early intervention that keeps women out of incarceration and united with their children. I just want to help others who may also be on the wrong path and not realize that there is another way.

I realized through all of this that for families, incarceration is just as bad for the children as it is for the parent. When a mother is in prison, your child shares that sentence. The best solutions are not punishment—it’s working together to provide early help. Finding solutions that keep families together.