Ministry offers support for families of prisoners

Linda Davis (left), executive director of Loved Ones of Prisoners, and her husband, Edwin Davis, lead a family ministry at Community Fellowship Church that provides support for family members of those incarcerated.

AKRON, Ohio – Linda Davis remembers the hurt and disappointment in the eyes of a young woman who was told she couldn’t visit her loved one in a correctional facility in Grafton, Ohio, because she had a hole in her jeans.

“She had driven two hours, only to be told that she couldn’t visit. She had a young child with her,” said Davis, who was at the facility visiting her son. “I felt bad for her and her loved one that she was trying to visit. How many people know that they can’t visit a loved one who is incarcerated if you have a hole in your jeans?”

Davis and her husband, Edwin, are on a mission to help families navigate the rules and regulations of the criminal justice system and to give them support via LOOP (Loved Ones of Prisoners) Family Ministry. The Clinton, Ohio, couple recently established the ministry as an outreach of Hartville Church of God, where they are members.

The Rev. Dr. Neil Davis, pastor of the Hartville church, said he was thrilled when the Davises (who are not related to him) approached him and his wife with the idea.

“The statistics show that one in every six people either have a loved one who is incarcerated or knows a loved one of someone who is incarcerated. There is no doubt that this is something that is needed,” the Rev. Davis said.

LOOP was established to provide support and guidance for anyone affected by the incarceration of someone they love.

The ministry offers a monthly hourlong support meeting at which people can gather and share their concerns and experiences. The monthly meetings also serve as a place where people can get information about resources available to help them cope and to help their loved ones transition back into family and community life once they are released.

Another component of LOOP’s mission: provide support and nurturing for children. Programming for children includes parties, field trips and rap sessions that are designed to be a safe place for them to talk.

It also aims to be a resource that provides information about the various correctional institutions in the state, including rules and regulations for visitations.

“Our plan is to develop a list of necessary information for each institution, so that people know what to expect and what to bring with them on a visit,” said Edwin Davis.