By Sister Madeline Kavanagh, DC
JACKSON – It was an unusual beginning. Slow. Something like a seed finding its way to the right spot at the best time with just enough support. Unlikely, like matching summer with winter, but it happened.
Just two years ago a seasoned prison chaplain met up with an over seasoned “nun” and together they nurtured a dream into being. First there was the discovery of a common concern for prisoners and a mutually respected program called Getting Ahead While Getting Out. Then came the resources for a beginning and in the spring of 2018 the workshop that ignited the initial spark. The Mississippi Association for Returning Citizens came into being, happy to go by its acronym MARC.
Although it is founded on faith-based principles, MARC’s name is meant to attract and serve people of various faith traditions as well as those not practicing any particular faith.
Since that time, a core group of faithful members was formed and meets monthly at the very welcoming St. Paul Flowood.
Several facilitators were trained, and two prisons have opened their doors in Pearl and Parchman. Two groups of prisoners have graduated and are waiting for their release dates while two groups are in process. Meanwhile in January two more groups are expected to begin the program.
In November MARC sponsored two days of training, the first entitled Bridges Out of Poverty which address poverty at the individual, organizational and community levels whereby people in poverty become planners and decision makers. The second day dealt with the Getting Ahead While Getting Out program which is designed to reduce the current problem of released prisoners reoffending. Participants come to learn more about their personal and situational reality, begin building resources, accept responsibility and work together while preparing a reentry plan designed by the prisoner for his or her particular reality.
Philip DeVol, one of the authors of Bridges Out of Poverty, led the session saying that “people who are in poverty and people who are coming out of prison can do all they can possibly do and still run into barriers – and the barriers often come from our institutions. So, our institutions have to make changes too.”
The MARC is now a fully accredited 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to accompanying prisoners in their pre-release preparations and supporting them as returning citizens by way of networking with service providers and volunteers who maintain support during those difficult initial months of reentry.
This writer happens to be that over seasoned “nun” who sees the present need for generous people, gifted with the recognition that we all are called by God who loves ALL of us to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure; and that some are called and welcomed to provide that support through MARC.
If you would like to learn more about MARC visit https://marcreentry.org or call Chaplain Marvin Edwards at (601) 594-8254.