Letter: Giving inmates a new start

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I have been working with male inmates at our Patrick County Jail for about seven years through counseling, mentoring, and giving Bible studies. I also make friends with them.

Of the inmates that I am able to work with, many are open to improving their life. But considering their background and some poor life decisions they have made, they are at a big disadvantage.

They may make a commitment upon their release to take a higher road in life. But many step back into society with no money, no driver’s license, no job to turn to, a record that is against them, possibly a family against them, and fines to pay monthly (or else they are returned to jail).

I and the Released Inmate Support Group that I work with are thinking of ways to change this picture. Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), STEP Community Action, WorkForce, Piedmont Community Services, pastors, and concerned citizens are meeting monthly to offer advice and help to interested inmates.

A project that has come to mind recently is to put together a work crew of released inmates who already have abilities and experience in home repair and restoration, and have them work on empty homes that need upgraded or homes of low income families that need improvements. This would enhance the appearance of our county and give the workers a real sense of satisfaction. Other released inmates could receive on-the-job training or receive training through PHCC and WorkForce to join the crew.

There are many homes in our county, empty or lived in, that need help now or the home will deteriorate beyond help. With a limited amount of start-up money for materials, worker insurance, and a small wage, this project could become a reality and be self-supporting. There is a released inmate who was a former successful contractor who is anxious to work with this crew.

After a year or so of solid work, these men could go on to other full-time jobs. Working to help lower income people with their housing is a promising way to motivate these men to become good productive workers and citizens.

If you have suggestions how we can make this happen, meet with us at the PHCC Community Room at 6:00 p.m. this Thursday, April 13, or call me at (276) 694-4775, or if you have experience with GoFundMe, let me know. I appreciate your interest.

Pastor Alan Dean