Thursday, October 15, 2009

Human, All Too Human

The founder of one of Texas' most successful and widely praised reentry programs - Catherine Rohr of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program - has been banned from Department of Criminal Justice facilities for engaging in sexual relations with ex-prisoners. Here's an excerpt from the Dallas News article announcing this unfortunate turn of events:

Catherine Rohr, founder of the Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program, has resigned as chief executive of the nonprofit. She has also been banned from Texas prisons and from working with parolees after divulging that she had inappropriate relationships with PEP graduates.

Since founding PEP in 2004, Rohr, 32, is credited with building a statewide prison organization that has graduated 500 felons from a five-month program about how to start businesses and be gainfully employed.

She and PEP were featured in a Cheryl Hall column on Oct. 4. The organization has an office in Dallas.

In a letter e-mailed Tuesday night to 7,500 supporters, Rohr said she sought "emotional comfort" from several released PEP graduates after her divorce in December. She said she decided to publicly disclose her improprieties so PEP could move forward.

"Although these mistakes were not illegal, I was recently banned by the Texas prison system from re-entering prison and volunteering with released men on parole supervision," she wrote.

In an interview Wednesday, Bill Meyer, chairman of PEP and chief financial officer of San Jose, Calif.-based Bell Micro Inc., said Rohr disclosed her inappropriate relationships to the PEP board a month ago. He said the board learned of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice decision to ban her from future prison work last week.

This is terrible news and a tremendous blow. PEP is Rohr's brainchild and a product of her energetic, charismatic leadership. The group could perhaps continue without her (though a major donor says he'll only give if she continues to be involved), but by all accounts she's been the lifeblood of the program and its primary fundraiser.

I don't know Catherine but I've heard her speak a few times and she's a force of nature, someone with a rare combination of vision and skills. I also don't know the details of her transgressions, but assuming it's true she violated no laws, I hope there's some way Rohr's status with the group and with TDCJ can sooner or later be rehabilitated. I'd like to see TDCJ building on PEP's successes, not contributing to its demise.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

PEP's Girl Gone Wild. I'd like to hear her ex-husband's spin on this.

Emotional comfort? That's a new codeword, huh?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Anonymous taunts, real classy, 7:02. Are you 12 years old?

Anonymous said...

Yes, she clearly had a rare combination of vision and skills.

Where do I sign up!!

If she was a male, it would not be 'emotional comfort'. It would be him taking advantage of a woman in a vulnerable situation...

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. If her partners were on parole, they were consenting adults, and the relationships didn't violate the law, what's the big deal? Are parolees not allowed to have sex?

Anonymous said...

*sigh*

Too many "Ladies" do "Love outlaws".

And it has everything to do, usually, with the power of some of these guys to manipulate and use the "Ladies".

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to hear her ex-husband's spin on this."

Perhaps if he'd been a more attentive and loving husband... these guys might not have tempted her so.

That's a lot of what marriage is about. Marriage is supposed to help keep one from "Burning with lust".

Of course... maybe she was just inherently wanton and nothing the husband could have done would have kept her from "Looking for love in all the wrong places".

Pirate Rothbard said...

"Anonymous taunts, real classy, 7:02. Are you 12 years old?"

I wouldn't call his comment a taunt, just social commentary on gender relations.

doran said...

I'm interested in learning the reasons for labeling those relationships "inappropriate." Did Rohr characterize them that way, or were the characterizations in the reports the work solely of reporters?

Grits, I doubt that Anon 7:02 has fully entered into puberty, yet.

Charlie O said...

She didn't break any laws, she's divorced and the parolees are above the age of consent. What the heck is the problem? Other than, of course, stupid American puritanism. When is this country going to accept the fact the sex happens and hey, it's OK?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Pirate, what "social commentary on gender relations" would you attribute to the Girls Gone Wild comparison? Please interpret the profound social meaning we may derive from that, or was it just a meritless, cowardly insult?

Anonymous said...

If anything, you have to question her judgement. It is not like she fell in love and it was unplanned. It appears that she had multiple sex partners. It is inappropriate behavior.

I also wander what was behind the divorce. Was she giving extra credit while married?

Grits, would you be so forgiving if it was a right wing conservative that was tough crime engaging in this type of behavior? It appears that you support the program; therefore over look the flaws..

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RE: "Grits, would you be so forgiving if it was a right wing conservative that was tough crime engaging in this type of behavior?"

Probably. To my knowledge I've never criticized any conservative, tough on crime types for any type of personal sexual behavior unless it specifically affected their job (e.g., the judge and DA allegedly making whoopee during Charles Hood's capital murder trial; alleged sexual assault by the Montague Sheriff against a snitch). If you recall otherwise, please give me a link. I mostly try to stick to policy discussions on Grits and don't indulge much in sexual gossip one way or the other. If this incident didn't impact PEP's program work and possibly its existence, I wouldn't have brought it up, either.

Charlie O said...

"If anything, you have to question her judgement. It is not like she fell in love and it was unplanned. It appears that she had multiple sex partners. It is inappropriate behavior."

How is this "inappropriate behavior"? She is an adult and unmarried. She can do what she likes. Inappropriate, maybe in your puritanical, bible thumping, so-called christian world. But in the real, world people have sex, sometimes with more than person, sometimes with more than person at, oh my, the SAME TIME!!!!! Get off your puritanical high horse. You don't have the moral high ground.

Creepy Uncle Mitch said...

"Grits, would you be so forgiving if it was a right wing conservative that was tough crime engaging in this type of behavior?" - Anon 12:34pm

Ha! You must be new here. Around here we forgive old Mormon polygamist rascals who have "spiritual marriages" with 13 year old girls.

Texas Maverick said...

Perhaps the point has been missed in the comments. There are very strict rules for all program volunteers regarding personal contact with inmates. Catherine may be somewhat naive and thus her personal involvement. Regardless, everything needs to be an arm's length transaction no matter how good our intentions are when we interact with TDCJ be it with personnel or inmates. Read letters twice; think before anything is said; look for possible ways something could be misinterpreted. Hopefully PEP can continue for it is a great step in the right direction providing professional guidance to reentry.

Anonymous said...

Many of the women I've worked with in corrections have had a very stong interest in being around criminals. I've seen some cross the line but I've noticed more who were obsessed with violent males and infatuated with them. Some of those seem to be on the verge of crossing the line.

Makes you wonder why they choose to work where they do.

Anonymous said...

Sex offender treatment providers say that ANY SEX outside of marriage is deviant sexual behaviour.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Creepy Uncle Mitch, THAT, mi amigo, gets you "Comment of the Day" award. Friggin hilarious! Excellent nom de plume, too (I love that the acronym is C.U.M.).

FWIW, I think Texas Maverick's comment gets it about right. I understand why they suspended her; I'm sure they basically had to. But it's a good program, she's done a ton to build it, and I hope there's a way to salvage all the positive parts of what she built.

I also wouldn't wish on anyone the type of embarrassment and humiliation Rohr must be going through with this public admission. I'll bet the personal lives of some of the anonymous cowards taking cheap shots in this comment string wouldn't pass close scrutiny, either, if their lives or activities were in the least bit as newsworthy or important as is Rohr's.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

You should find out more about this subject before giving credit for "her" work or giving her your sympathy? By the way, is an admission truly an admission, if you got caught first? Or is it just good spin. Let's not forget about the other staff members, students, agencies and donors that have been humiliated as a result of her "leadership".It would be great if her ex-husband, staff, donor, etc could indulge us with there take.

Let me add, grace has come to me in life only after consequences, ownership, accountability and proven remorse. Grace is giving her an opportunity to redeem herself - someday.

I hope the community does not punish a great organization for her bad choices.

doran said...

Waitadamn minute, Grits, and you too, Texas Maverick. The lead line on this post said the lady was dallying with ex-prisoners. Ex. Got that? So why is that behavior inappropriate?

And Anon 5:59 said this: "Sex offender treatment providers say that ANY SEX outside of marriage is deviant sexual behaviour."

Any sex offender treatment provider who says that should get another job. He or she may be doing more harm than good as a SOTP.

Anonymous said...

Doran, you are so right about the sotp, but that is what they tell the folks in their group.(not all of the sotp, but a great many) My son was one of those in treatment told he was sexually deviant for having sex outside marriage and no he did not rape anyone. He had consensual sex. His probation officer said that a calendar with bikini clad women sitting on motorcyles was sexually explicit and deviant, I as a mother argued with the p.o. about that one.
I agree that any treatment provider saying this should get a new job, but it is a fact. There are many treatment providers that are doing way more harm than good and yes some are telling offenders that they are all sexual deviants if they have sex outside of marriage. I guess I am a sexual deviant too. Please don't tell my grandchildren.
I feel for this PEP lady, she has obviously made some bad decisions, but it appears to not be an illegal act. Right?

Anonymous said...

Men who are married to women who have this kind of "passion" learn what the expresion "hot pants" means. She admitted to four - wonder how many she scored?

KDA0618 said...

I know of a female prison employee that TDCJ tried to fire because she left a message on a parolee's answering machine. She was friends with the parolee's sister, who she got acquainted with when parolee's sister also worked at TDCJ. Parolee's "baby mama" got mad about the message and turned the tape over to investigators. She was disciplined for failing to report relationship with offender/parolee family. She was demoted in rank and put on probation because of it. Yeah, they are really, really strict about relationships that employees or volunteers have with offenders or families of offenders. This was a far, FAR cry from having SEX with a parolee.

KDA0618 said...

Also, I really hate that the PEP program is in limbo because of this. It was a great idea, and there are far too few quality programs for offenders who are being released to participate as it is......

Anonymous said...

We have filled our prison's with sex offenders. Labeled six year old boys "sex offenders". We have taken theives after years of forced prison abstinence and labeled them sex offenders when placed on parole and now consenting adults are considered "evil" and can't work. We punish the "offenders" with abstinence by denying them their biblical marital unions. Yes you are right our countrymen are forcing their puritanical sex mores on everyone and to what good. This is yet another argument for the institution of conjugal visitation of married inmates. Sorry she lost her job for having consensual sex...but it is a holdover from Perry's puritanical prison environment where he believes those condemned to time in prison don't deserve the biological gifts that God directly gave mankind when he created the sex urge's and said "go, multiply and replenish the earth". God created testosterone.

Anonymous said...

Well, it couldn't happen to a more deserving lady!