The Open Door Prison and Re-Entry Ministry helps women in jail who are attempting to change their lives. As a volunteer for the past ten years, I have seen mothers, daughters and grand-daughters from one family incarcerated. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the nation, and the U.S. has the highest rate in the world. This translates to our state being the worst of the worst. The mission at The Open Door is to stop the revolving door of incarceration, especially within families through Christ-centered education and practical information.
Reaching out in the name of Christ, The Open Door (or TOD), offers programs geared to change a woman’s perception of helplessness to one of self-motivation. As a mentor, one of my first clients was Kim Johnson. Educated and well-traveled, Kim didn’t fit the T.V. stereotype. Quiet and unassuming, she became one of the first peer tutors in TOD’s emerging Literacy Program and participated in three sessions of Alpha Bible study.
Out of jail for over five years now, I asked Kim what her feelings were then. “I knew I screwed up, but I didn’t know where to go from there. I had to learn to deal with life on life’s terms and not obscure my feelings. The women from The Open Door were awesome, encouraging but most of all nonjudgmental. It was important to be around people who had a different perspective from those in jail. Screwing up doesn’t make you hopeless. Being around you all helped me keep an open mind and realize I had choices.”
Upon release, TOD clients come to our offices to begin what we call Phase II. We partner together, to help set attainable goals, working through to a new normal. Sometimes getting out of jail can be more frightening than incarceration. Kim adds, “Writing stuff down and putting your name on something made me feel responsible. I couldn’t procrastinate anymore. There was somebody thinking about me – expecting something.
Stop the Cycle
The Open Door currently has 10 programs offered at the Women’s Correctional Services housed in the Calcasieu Parish Sheriffs Prison. Classes and programs include:
- Mentoring, one-on-one visits with grace filledvolunteers trained to encourage and help set attainable goals before being released.
- C.T.S. (Alcohol, Chemical, Treatment, Series), a court approved drug education class offered inside the jail and extended to both men and women on the outside.
- Alpha Bible, a twelve week basic Bible study offered three times per year.
- Re-entry and Life Skills, an ongoing class for group assessment and goal setting.
- Literacy, a nine month basic studies class coordinated with The Literacy Council of SWLA.
- Parenting, taught from the book Effective Parenting in a Defective World .
- Rachel’s Vineyard, a three day reflective study that offers grace for abortion recovery.
Other children and family reunification programs include:
- Mommy Reads, a book read by an incarcerated mom to her child and saved to DVD. The disc with the mother’s voice and book are sent to the child and their caregiver.
- Christmas Stars, for children whose parents are incarcerated after deadlines set by other local programs.
- R.A.C.E Camp, a non-profit organization which TOD works in conjunction to offer a safe, summer experience for children who have had a parent incarcerated. A week of fun with trained Christian monitors who listen, not judge.
The Open Door is a Christian based, non-profit. What we are NOT is a bunch of church-ladies. TOD sends letters to judges, and emails accountability verification to probation officers. Case files are kept and visits are documented. Sometimes TOD stands in the gap as liaison between jail and rehab.
If God is calling you to prison ministry, or you would like to know more, please contact:
The Open Door Prison and Re-Entry Ministry
Phone: 337-436-6700 – Monday thru Thursday, 9 am – 1 pm.
A satellite office for women in the Sulphur/Carless area:
Located at Care Help of Sulphur
200 N. Huntington Street
Thursday by appointment – 436-6700