Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prison ministry fundraising for visitor lodging facility in Gatesville

Cindy Culp at the Waco Tribune Herald had a story picked up by AP about a prison ministry effort by the Central Texas Hospitality House to establish a facility for inmate families visiting prisons in Gatesville - including TDCJ's biggest women's units - for inmate families to stay overnight when visiting relatives in prison. Reported Culp:
The group hopes to raise $850,000 to build a new center with 19 private bedrooms and other facilities needed to host visitors overnight.

"We have people coming from all over the state, all over the nation," said Charles Wise, director of development for the house. "Most have the same core values as us. But they're thrown into an unempowered situation because of (a loved one's) stupid choices or criminal activity. They are victims, too."

More than 8,200 inmates are housed in Gatesville, including women on death row. They receive about 80,000 visitors per year, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Those statistics alone show the need for a ministry like the hospitality house, Wise said.

But its vision also is to serve people visiting prisons in nearby areas — namely Marlin, Burnet and San Saba.
The group knows the capital campaign will be a challenge, especially since some people bristle at the idea of even indirectly helping prisoners. But part of the strategy is to emphasize to churches — the most likely contributors — that the house's services are in line with biblical teachings, Wise said. ...
The group also is motivated by growing research that shows the positive ripple effects of prison visitation.
Not only are inmates more likely to stay out of trouble after their release, but their children are less likely to be locked up later in life.

That's good for families and society as a whole, said Tim Randolph, who helped start the house about a decade ago with area Baptists and now serves as director of the Waco Regional Baptist Association.
"There's an economic reason why churches and families should really be invested in these families and the offenders themselves," Randolph said. "I think you can argue that every dollar invested (at the house) will be multiplied."

Wallace Nelson, a state-employed prison chaplain who oversees the region that includes Gatesville, agreed.
Prisons offer a variety of programs aimed at rehabilitation and restoration, including marriage seminars and family days.

But far too many families don't attend such events because they can't afford to, he said.

"We recognize the days of just locking them up and throwing away the key are gone," Nelson said. "We have to prepare people to be useful citizens. One of the things we have really recognized is that offenders who have relationships with family or friends in the free world are most likely to make it. Everybody needs a support system."


Texas Maverick said...

Having stayed at the Huntsville Hospitality House I cannot express enough thanks to the gracious people who provide this loving service. If all the readers a donation it will help them meet their goal. Yes, families are victims, forgotten victims, but this lets us know there are people who still care.

sunray's wench said...

There are several of these hospitality houses dotted around Texas, but not enough to handle the numbers of families who travel more than 300 miles to see their loved ones. There should be non-denominational ones around too.

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

This is good news coming out of such a historically putrid valley. Thanks Grits for posting I didn’t know they existed. I can only hope it won’t be built on any unmarked graves of boys who were never heard from.

Anonymous said...

I read the article and most of it is simply untrue. TDCJ Chaplain say’s it is important to keep the friends and family connected. UNTRUE!! Go to visitation as a friend and see for yourself. A minimum custody inmate and their friend cannot even hug each other on time, cannot make a picture together for years. If it is picture day, you have to take it separately with each person stands against a wall for it. THAT IS A MUG SHOT RIGHT THERE, NOT A PICTURE. Non –Contact visitation only eventually drives the friend to quite coming to visitation. You have to yell through a dirty plexus-glass window that you can barely see or hear the person you’re visiting. One of the visitation rooms sits around 12 people and if there are three visitors, they are stacked up on each other where it becomes a contest just to hear each other. Some of the inmates are reliant on their friends when they get release but TDCJ only runs the friends off. What would it hurt to be able to talk to a visitor and not yell at them, to simply hug them once, to take a picture with them? The units on Gatesville are the worst of the worst prisons in the world!