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One of the myriad questions hovering over state-funded projects this spring has been the future of Summit House, Greensboro's sentencing alternative for pregnant women or women with young children. Wednesday the board of Summit House took a long, hard look at the ledger and concluded there was nothing to do but close, at least temporarily. Its closing will be a loss to the prison program as well as the community.Funding problems have hounded Summit House practically since its inception. Since its program is an important alternative to prison, private donors have recognized its worth. But because their contributions frequently depend on matching state funds, the home can rarely see its way clear from the end of each fiscal year to the next. That is the problem this year, with a $30,000 shortfallbetween now and June 30.

Summit House attempts to break the cycle of crime for young women. Those who have young children to support can serve out their sentences in a home environment along with their children. Many of them can eventually work outside that home, developing new skills and creating hope for their own future and that of their children, too.

Without Summit House, these women - often misdemeanants for whom no minimum-security facilities are available for women in Guilford County - are frequently assigned to prison in Raleigh. Their children may become wards of the state. The resulting separation creates hardship for both mothers and children, adds to the state's costs and dooms the family to a life defined by the criminal system.

Initially, the founders of Summit House hoped it could provide anexample to be copied statewide.Instead, the original program has suffered a crushing defeat. Emergency funds may help keep the program alive for a while longer, but until it finds a stable source of government support, its future will never be assured.


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