Last week seven of us in the Catholic Worker community met with the chaplains at the Dane County Jail and a representative from Madison Urban Ministries to kick-off a transportation service for inmates released from jail. We were energized by the hope that this ministry could bring to the community and the support we have been receiving from all in the community who hear of it.
We have recognized the lack of community support for those in jail once released. Jail is a challenging environment. However, it does provide structure, time and an opportunity for sobriety and with this a person while there can develop healthy resolutions to take on the world in new ways once released. However, with little community support and a lack of structure an individual can flounder in the transition to the real world. When faced with the challenges of finding housing, food, transportation or clothing it is easy to enter into or return to unhealthy patterns of behavior. Without an introduction to the wider community it is easy to become entangled in familiar yet destructive relationships from the past.
Our idea in brief is to provide a ride from the Dane County Jail to other supportive services in the area. We see this as a way to be with someone in that very confusing moment when that person walks out of jail with only the clothes they came in on. For many, they are walking into a world with little support. Though we cannot provide for their every need we can give them a ride to those who are more positioned at this time to help them make the transition with success. We see this as a small first step in reaching out to meet what has been characterized as an “ocean of need.”
Through a referral process in the jail system we propose to meet individuals at the exit door. We will sit with them and discuss their plans now that they are free in the community again. And we will provide transportation to social services and community support. We are learning as we go but excited to be off and running.