A former prison inmate was dropped off at a Metro station in Northern Virginia upon his release. He had no money for a Metro card. He also did not have a place to stay. Once he found a local shelter, he had to walk miles to get to the probation office, Social Security office, and places where he could apply for work.
Transportation, shelter, food: These are the immediate needs many ex-offenders in our Diocese face upon release from prison. Most county jails will release them back to family members or friends and create re-entry “home plans.” But what if you do not have that support network?
Some former inmates are now able to turn to those who have been providing mentorship and spiritual guidance along the way. Catholic Charities Prison Ministry volunteers working out of St. John the Apostle Parish in Leesburg saw the challenges men and women faced upon release. They created the Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) with the unofficial tagline “a couple of Catholics and a jalopy!”
Since 2015, TAP has assisted 39 individuals released from the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center. The pace of assisting released inmates has increased over time as the word has spread. Inmates interview with Deacon Larry Hammel and are accepted into the program based on their level of need.
At the very least, TAP ensures that someone is there to meet the ex-offender at the gate upon his or her release, share a meal and prayer, and get them to their place of relocation or to a bus or train to take them there. TAP can also provide a more extensive re-entry plan that arranges for reunification with family, and supports trips to post-release appointments at the probation office and clinic. TAP also introduces them to a support agent at a local Church, and assures that the ex-offender will have food, clothing and shelter. TAP strives to place ex-offenders into an environment supportive of a successful re-entry into the community.
“I believe St. Theresa of Calcutta said, ‘I see Jesus in every human being.’ This ministry has helped me to begin to understand what that means,” said Don Dei, a prison ministry volunteer involved with TAP.
How can you help?
Time and treasure. The prison ministry program continues to need new
volunteers—particularly volunteers who have the time to help with the re-entry of inmates selected for TAP assistance. TAP has been blessed to have St. John the Apostle Parish (and its parishioners) generously provide the material needs of TAP inmates, ranging from clothing and gift cards, to monetary support for shelter and transportation. Without the support of St. John parish ministries, Catholic Charities, other charitable organizations and local government agencies, TAP would be unable to do the work that they do.
Want to donate directly to TAP? Contact Dave Miller at email@example.com or (703) 919-4425.