The program has encountered other snags. Of the original 11 participants, four dropped out in the first two months. And while participation was supposed to preclude transfer to other institutions, two have been moved, including Linda. The oldest participant in the program, Linda was also the most eager. In contrast to women incarcerated for the first time, Linda knows firsthand what lies ahead outside. She knows that she will not succeed without help.

Inmates share a light moment with Walker-Barnes.  

I hope Linda will succeed despite her transfer to another facility. After letting her family down many times, she had been reluctant to contact relatives who were in a position to help her. I encouraged her to try again. During my last week of the summer, she finally reached out to her siblings and told them about her participation in the re-entry program. To her surprise, her sister offered her a place to stay. Her brother, owner of a hair salon, offered her a job while she studies for her cosmetology licensing exam.

The Way Forward

Like any pilot program, there are a few bugs to be worked out in the Multifaith Transition Aftercare Program. Rev. Brown is optimistic that it will eventually be available at prisons statewide. In the meantime, approximately 2,200 inmates will be released each month from the state’s prisons, many with little more than a bus ticket, a change of clothing, and identification.

Within the next six months, they will include Linda and the five women who have been faithful participants in the program. And while few of the communities to which they return will have re-entry agencies, all of them will have at least one church. I pray the doors of that church will be open.

Chanequa Walker-Barnes D’07 holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and taught at the University of N.C. at Chapel Hill before entering the master of divinity degree program at The Divinity School. “I know that NCCIW will shape the course of my vocation,” she says. “Somehow I plan to be one of those waiting to embrace our sisters and brothers as they return home.”

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